Commons committee calls for review of lobbying rules

The House of Commons committee on standards and privileges has called for a fresh review of lobbying, as it strips three ex-ministers of their parliamentary passes.

House of Commons: fresh lobbying review
House of Commons: fresh lobbying review

 

A report published by the committee today states there is a ‘strong case’ for such a review, following the Sunday Times/Dispatches lobbying sting earlier this year.

The committee is particularly keen to look at how former MPs can be prevented from exploiting their contacts and experience from their time in office once they leave.

The committee's report follows the Sunday Times/Dispatches lobbying expose in March, which saw five former Labour ministers and one Conservative MP filmed discussing consultancy services with an undercover reporter claiming to be from a lobbying firm.

In particular, Stephen Byers was heavily criticised after telling the undercover reporters that he was ‘like a cab for hire’ and would ask for up £5,000 a day to provide advisory services to companies.

Today, the committee backed commissioner for standards Sir John Lyons’ recommendations to reprimand Byers, Geoff Hoon and Richard Caborn, stripping them of their Commons passes for varying periods in one of the most serious collective sanctions ordered against former ministers in recent times.

The report noted: ‘The commissioner observes that, once an MP has left the House, there is nothing to prevent them using contacts which they have developed as MPs in lobbying ministers or civil servants, including paid advocacy in the exclusive support of those who are paying them.’

It added: ‘We agree with the commissioner that there is a strong case for a review of the rules relating to lobbying… We intend that such a review will be carried out as soon as time permits.’

It is almost two years since the Commons public administration select committee completed its investigation in to lobbying.

In January 2009, the committee called for all meetings between MPs and lobbyists to be detailed in a new register.

The Government has so far been reluctant to back a statutory register, preferring to see industry bodies pressing ahead with a voluntary scheme. However the Coalition has been more enthusiastic about the tackling the so-called 'revolving door' between the worlds of politics and public affairs.

In May, the Government published an updated ministerial code barring former ministers from lobbying Government for two years. Previously, ex-ministers were only subject to a one year ‘cooling off’ period before they could enter the public affairs industry.

 

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