Lobbying firms should be banned from holding secretariat positions
on all-party parliamentary groups, according to Peter Temple-Morris,
Labour MP and chairman of three all-party groups.
Giving evidence on Monday at the Neill Committee on Standards in Public
Life, Temple-Morris said private sector sponsorship and staffing of
all-party groups ’should be stopped’ because MPs’ impartiality could be
Associate all-party groups, which encourage contact between MPs and
peers and third parties in industry and the voluntary sector, are often
set up by lobbying and PR agencies on behalf of their clients. These
companies then enlist MPs with interests in the area, in order to
encourage them to raise issues in parliament.
However, under these circumstances a ’closed shop’ can operate. Industry
rivals can be denied access, resulting in the agenda being tipped in
favour of the sponsors.
Lists of members do not have to be published. Lobbying firms which run
associate all-party groups include Shandwick, which runs the group for
the Bar, and Citigate Westminster, which administers the motorcycle
David Varney, chief executive of BG, called for ’greater transparency’
in the funding of all-party groups. He suggested each group should have
trustees who would collect money, with a separate group of people
deciding what is done with the money, ’so the agenda of all-party groups
is not unduly influenced’.
At Thursday’s hearing the Association of Professional Political
Consultants and the PRCA were due to claim that a total ban on lobbyists
and industry representatives holding secretariat positions on all-party
groups would be impractical and would lead to a decrease in the number
of such groups.