Matt Chorley — Daily Mail June 10, 2013
And in a thinly-veiled swipe at Commons Speaker John Bercow, he said he could not believe he had been dragged to the Commons to comment on an event held by a private organisation.
The senior minister attended the Bilderberg meeting with David Cameron and George Osborne last week, but Downing Street has refused to give any information about who they met or what was discussed.
Labour figures including Ed Balls and Lord Mandelson also attended.
Today Mr Clarke was called to the Commons to explain what happened at the four-day conference, after Mr Cameron once promised to lead the ‘most open and transparent government in the world’.
Mr Bercow granted an urgent question from Labour MP Michael Meacher about the impact of the conference on government policy.
But in a reference to the internet conspiracy theories, Mr Clarke joked that if Mr Meacher ‘finds something deeply disturbing abut this, might I suggest he finds a different group of people to exchange tweets with’.
Mr Clarke, minister without portfolio, is an elected member of the steering group which governs the the Bilderberg group.
In a dismissive statement to MPs, he said it was the ‘first occasion for me as I have never previously answered a question in the House of Commons about a private organisation for which the government has no responsibility’.
He insisted that everyone who attended the conference did so as an individual and not representing any organisaton.
‘We go there for the chance of having an off-the-record, informal discussion with the range of people you described, who are indeed distinguished but who are not remotely interested in getting together to decide anything.
‘I always find it greatly adds to the depths of my understanding of what is being talked about and contemplated in parts of the States and Europe as well.’
And in a direct swipe at Mr Meacher he added: ‘With the greatest respect, this is total, utter nonsense, and I would not normally regard you as the sort of person who would be taken in by this sort of rubbish.’
But Mr Meacher, an environment minister in Tony Blair’s government, insisted there was something amiss.
‘It is said by some, and indeed by you, that Bilderberg is a conspiracy – of course it’s not a conspiracy.
‘But at the same time 130 of the world’s top decision-makers don’t travel thousands of miles simply for a cosy chat.
‘They have come here in order to concert their plans to deal with a particularly awkward stage in western capitalism and as such we, the public, are entitled to ask some questions and to hold them to account.’
Famous for being shrouded in secrecy, the Bilderberg conference took place in Britain for the first time since 1998 and conspiracy theorists believe this is where leaders plot world domination.
In an extraordinary clash on live TV yesterday, US radio host Alex Jones was branded an ‘idiot’ by BBC presenter Andrew Neil after ranting about the conference and the American government ‘disappearing people’.
The huge police operation drafted in to monitor the four-day event in Watford, which has previously attracted mass demonstrations, could cost the British taxpayer as much as £2million or more, it has been claimed.
Mr Cameron attended on Friday night, and took part in a discussion about ‘domestic and global economic issues’.
He was invited as Prime Minister of the host country but today Downing Street refused to give any details of the people he met or any discussions which related to government policy.
‘It was a private meeting,’ the PM’s official spokesman said.
Justifying the meeting on Friday, Number 10 said Mr Cameron thought it was an opportunity to discuss economic issues with senior ministers, business people and academics.’
Mr Jones, who floated a barge along a canal near the conference at the weekend, appeared on BBC1’s Sunday Politics to discuss the event.
But he launched into a noisy rant about the theories available on his website about the U.S. government ‘disappearing people’, which led to him eventually being cut off by Mr Neil, 64.
Mr Neil told him: ‘You (Mr Jones) are the worst person I’ve ever interviewed. David (Aaronovitch), thank you for being with us. It’s gone half past 11. You’re watching the Sunday Politics.’
The presenter then added: ‘We have an idiot on the programme today’, before using hand gestures to indicate that Mr Jones had lost his mind, as the American continued to shout at him off camera.
Mr Jones had said: ‘Hey listen, I’m here to warn people, you keep telling me to shut up. This isn’t a game. Our government, the US, is building Fema (Federal Emergency Management Agency) camps.
‘We have an NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) where they disappear people now. You have this arrest for public safety, life in prison. It’s basically off with their heads, disappear them.
Mr Cameron has made great play of his commitment to be more open about who he meets.
In 2010 he promised: ‘We want to be the most open and transparent government in the world.’
Downing Street was forced to deny that Mr Cameron’s decision to attend this evening ran counter to his pledge.
The spokesman added: ‘The Prime Minister has always been clear about the importance of transparency, which is why this Government has taken a number of steps in terms of publishing more data, more information and making details of meetings available.
‘We publish far more information on meetings than previous governments. The Prime Minister regularly has meetings with key ministers from other countries and with business people and others as part of his job.
‘That doesn’t mean that he is not determined to lead the most transparent government.’
Since its inception in 1954, Bilderberg has held annual gatherings of 120-150 invited political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media, designed to ‘foster dialogue between Europe and North America’.
The group describes the conference as ‘a forum for informal, off-the-record discussions about megatrends and the major issues facing the world’ and states that the private nature of the meeting allows participants to ‘listen, reflect and gather insights’ without being bound by the conventions of office or by pre-agreed public positions.
There is no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.
Several cars with blacked-out windows entered the gates of the Grove Hotel, near Watford, in Hertfordshire, were seen arriving the secretive meeting. Some were heckled by crowds of protestors outside.
It is thought billionaire executives from multinational companies such as Amazon and Google, high-ranking political figures and even members of royal families were among the 130 or so attendees.