Swire: is this ethical?

This is Swire’s current declaration of interests:

From 9 November 2016, Adviser to KIS France, a manufacturer of photo booths and mini labs. Address: 7 Rue Jean Pierre Timbaud, 38130 Echirolles, France. I expect to be paid £3,000 every month until further notice. Hours: 8 hrs per month. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment. (Registered 16 November 2016)

From 15 November 2016, Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. Address: Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5HX. I expect to be paid £2,000 every month until further notice. Hours: 10 hrs per month. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment. (Registered 16 November 2016)

16 November 2017, received £25,000 for acting as adviser to Apiro Real Estate Fund 1 Limited Partnership, 1 Connaught House, Mount Row, London SW1K 3RA. Hours: 10 hrs. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment. (Registered 22 November 2017)

From 18 June 2017, non-executive director of ATG Airports, Newton Road, Lowton St Mary’s, Warrington WA3 2AP:
24 November 2017, received £10,086.72. Hours: 15 hrs. (Registered 05 December 2017)”


Now read the article below that he penned for Conservative Home – about why people should not be allowed to take selfies for passports but should use photo booths. He says in the article that he ” once chaired” a photo booth company does not say explicitly that it still employs him at a monthly salary of £3,000 for up to 8 hours work per month.

Is this ethical? Is it a conflict of interest? Should the website provide a disclaimer to make his relationship with the company clear?

The article:

A few weeks ago a Belgian court convicted 14 people of falsifying ID documents, some of which were sold to Islamist militants involved in the terror attacks on Paris and Brussels.

For many of my generation fake IDs were about getting into pubs and clubs, or buying a pint and a packet of cigarettes a couple of years before we were supposed to. For this generation, as the families of those slain in Paris, Brussels and countless other attacks will testify, the end results of fake IDs can now be unimaginably awful.

As a former Minister for Northern Ireland and more recently Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office I am all too aware of the threats we face at our borders. As a father of two teenagers I am also more than aware that we live in the “selfie” age. You only have to step outside the gates of Parliament to see hundreds of tourists with selfie sticks smiling in front of Big Ben. When it comes to passport and other ID documents, people are increasingly demanding a similar quick DIY approach.

The Passport Office has been testing the idea of selfie photos since April 2016 in line with the Government’s drive to get more business online. The idea was unsurprisingly popular as photos are free, quick and easy to take. Unfortunately it also exposes the passport process to unnecessary risks and it is often difficult for people to capture an acceptable image. Such selfies can easily be manipulated, for vanity or for more sinister criminal purposes, creating convincing false IDs.

Having already allowed the use of self-taken photos for their Passport card, the Irish Passport Office have identified the need and importance to provide a fully secure but easily accessible digital photo upload system. The Photo-Me photobooth has been approved for this process.

France has already rolled out that system. Here in the UK we are trialling a similar system, but it will not be operational until next year at the earliest.

In Ireland the Department for Foreign Affairs is working with Photo-Me International, a company I once chaired and one of the many providers of photobooths in the UK and across Europe. Following the Brexit vote one of the most important areas in need of resolution is the preserving of the Common Travel Area between the UK and Republic of Ireland, a vital aspect of which is commonality in terms of documentation. The DFA is working on an innovative scheme which will mean 90 per cent of the population are located within 10km of a photobooth.

Pictures taken in these booths will possess a number of key security features which smart phones do not. It will be impossible for the photo to have been edited in any way as the encrypted image is always held on secure servers. The images submitted have the highest acceptance level in meeting International Civil Aviation Organization standards which saves a considerable amount of time and money as the need for manual checks is greatly reduced. The images are automatically deleted six months after being taken providing passport providers with 100 per cent assurance the maximum six month old photo regulation is complied with. In addition, the technology present in the photobooths is already fully scalable for future biometric security regulations such as 3D, Iris reading, signature, fingerprint and facial recognition. This service will also be available in selected booths across the UK but for Irish citizens only. Importantly there is also no cost to the Government.

We already know that the number of forged passports seized at our borders is on the rise, with more than 1,000 confiscated a year. Britain’s exit from the EU gives us a golden opportunity to redesign and modernise our passports. It might be nice and convenient if we could upload selfies for our passport pictures. However, we live in an incredibly dangerous world. We owe it to our citizens to do everything we can to make sure our passport system is as secure as possible to help combat ID fraud and its sometimes deadly results.”


2 thoughts on “Swire: is this ethical?

  1. Funnily enough, I had to use a Photo-Me booth on Saturday because the Land Registry required photo id on photographic paper and not just a print of a selfie.

    So there are two issues at stake here:

    1. Is it right for an MP to lobby his own government to require citizens to use a service whose only monopoly supplier is a company who pays him a lucrative retainer?

    2. Is it right that an MP should undertake all these roles (and having several “nice little earners” on top of a very nice salary they already get as MP) when they were elected to Parliament to represent their constituents not to represent the interests of companies they are being paid by?

    Oh – I forgot. Hugo doesn’t really believe that being an MP is a job whose role is to represent his constituents – he has made it quite clear on his web site (in defence of his mate George Osborne) that he believes MPs can have as many outside jobs as they like because being an MP isn’t a job.

    Indeed it is a non-job that pays a nice salary, allows you to pay your wife a lovely salary at taxpayer’s expense for an unspecified (presumably low) number of hours work doing what exactly?, allows you to pick up lucrative advisory roles that pay up to £2,500/hr. No wonder we hardly ever see him in East Devon – too busy earning £2,500/hr.


  2. A member of the conservativehome site made the following comment. I think he got it right!

    · 49 weeks ago
    “Photo-Me International, a company I once chaired”

    “Sir Hugo Swire is a…consultant to KIS (France).”

    KIS France is also known as KIS Photo ME, the same company he chaired.

    This article is not about security. It’s about an MP trying to sell the UK and Ireland on the services of a company he has a financial interest in.

    Requiring UK citizens to get their passport photos from only one company’s photobooths would be quite lucrative for the company and the MP.


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