Blair's biotech backers (22/3/2006)

The latest scandal about concealed loans to Tony Blair's Labour Party is throwing up some very interesting facts and figures - see lots of bits and pieces below.

For instance, how's this for a coincidence: of the top 3 personal donors to Blair's Party, 2 - Paul Drayson and David Sainsbury - are biotech entrepreneurs.

Both have been made peers by Blair in controversial circumstances and both have been given jobs in government.

When Drayson was made a peer, a Guardian editorial commented, 'It may be unkind to Lord Drayson to suggest that he effectively purchased a seat in parliament, but if the same thing happened in an African kleptocracy we might find it altogether less amusing.'

Lord Sainbury, as The Sunday Times has commented, has been 'a never-to-be-reshuffled minister' - in the same post as Science Minister since 1998.

Not that he's purchased a job for life, you understand. Drayson - aka 'Lord Smallpox' - is widely tipped as his successor.

Then - lo and behold - there's yet another biotech entrepreneur amongst the businessmen caught up in the latest scandal about concealed loans. Chris Evans was previoulsy knighted for his services to the bioscience sector. Another of the undisclosed lenders in the latest row is - inevitably - Lord Sainsbury.

For a largely loss making niche industry, biotech sure gets major representation among Blair's financial backers. But then, like George Bush, they've got an awful lot to be grateful for.

Multiple items follow - all shortened.

Labour MPs' fury over 'loans for peerages'
By Toby Helm, Chief Political Correspondent The Scotsman
(Filed: 13/03/2006)

Tony Blair faced a backlash from his MPs after it was revealed that Labour had tried to conceal millions of pounds of financial aid from multi-millionaire supporters who were subsequently nominated for peerages.

'No strings attached' to GBP1m loan
Western Mail, Mar 22 2006

WELSH biotechnology entrepreneur Sir Chris Evans said yesterday there were "no strings attached" to his GBP1m loan to the Labour Party.

His disclosure came as the Labour Party's ruling body vowed to take back control of party funding issues, after the controversy surrounding nearly GBP14m worth of previously undisclosed loans made by 12 leading UK businessmen. The loans were made to help finance Labour's election campaign last year.

Other contributors included supermarket millionaire and Labour Science Minster Lord Sainsbury (GBP2m)...

Sir Chris, who was knighted for his services to the bioscience sector in 2001, is a well-known supporter of the Labour Party.

A statement issued by the biotechnology entrepreneur's PR company said, "Sir Christopher has been a long-term supporter of Labour and of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He was approached in early 2005 and asked to make a loan (of GBP1m) to help out along with other supporters.

[Blair's] personal fundraiser Lord Levy arranged the controversial deals - which do not have to be publicly declared under openness rules. They allowed the party to build up a secret GBP14m warchest for fighting the general election last May.

A row blew up last week when party treasurer Jack Dromey revealed he had learned of the loans only from media reports amid claims that Labour backers were being rewarded with peerages.

Merlin Biosciences is currently the centre of an on-going investigation by the SeriousFraud Office, following allegations of the misappropriation of more than GBP2m, made by former Merlin executive Andrew Greene who was sacked in 2003.

Merlin has denied any wrongdoing. Yesterday a spokesman for Sir Chris said, "Merlin is co-operating fully with the Serious Fraud Squad and we are hopeful that the matter can be resolved as quickly at possible... although at this stage we have no time frame."

By Rosa Prince
The Mirror, 18 March 2006

THREE of the top Labour donors have been given peerages and five knighthoods by Tony Blair.

They are: Former Sainsbury's boss David Sainsbury, 65, £6.5m. Publisher Christopher Ondaatje, 73, £1.6m. Businessman Paul Drayson, 46, £1.1m...... [AKA Dr Paul Drayson - former head of the BioIndustry Association]

GM Watch WEEKLY WATCH number 123 (12/5/2005)

British prime minister Tony Blair has just placed in the Ministry of Defence the man who has been tipped to be Lord Sainsbury's successor as science minister - Lord Drayson, the former head of the BioIndustry Association - motto: 'Promoting UK Biotechnology'. Like Sainsbury, Drayson is a major donor to the Labour Party and has been given a peerage by Blair in highly controversial circumstances.

Drayson made a substantial donation to Labour while the Ministry of Defence was deciding who should be awarded a smallpox vaccine contract. Drayson gave a further donation of half a million pounds to Labour just six weeks after the PM made him Lord Drayson. The Blair government awarded Drayson's company the GBP32million smallpox vaccine contract without any competition.

The Guardian comments on the Drayson appointment: "... one's eye is caught by the appointment of Lord Smallpox, aka Paul Dr

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