New 'lobbying' sting may lead to 'a clamour for recall of MPs'

The latest 'lobbying' scandal to hit Parliament involving MP Tim Yeo may lead to 'a clamour for recall of MPs' that would force them to behave, according to Maitland Political's Kevin Bell.

Kevin Bell: Executive chairman of public affairs at Maitland
Kevin Bell: Executive chairman of public affairs at Maitland

The latest Sunday Times Insight team expose has alleged that Yeo has been caught boasting about using his leadership of the Energy and Climate Change select committee to push his private business interests.

Bell, executive chairman of Maitland's public affairs division, said it simply showed that 'if you want to be on a select committee, you can’t have retainers from companies in that area’.

Yeo, the MP for South Suffolk, was caught on film by reporters claiming that he was close to ‘really all the key players in UK Government’.

The reporters claimed to be representing a green energy firm. Yeo allegedly told them he could not speak out on the firm’s interest in the Commons as people would suspect it was due to commercial interests, but that ‘what I say to people in private is another matter entirely’.

Bell argued: ‘If politicians are stupid enough to be taken in by these things then they deserve it. What is interesting about this situation is that we may see a clamour for recall of MPs.

‘If the MPs that break the rules have to stand down and fight a by-election to be re-elected then it would force MPs to behave.’

Yeo has issued a statement rejecting that he breached lobbying rules and said he has referred himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to have the matter ‘thoroughly investigated by an independent body’.

PRCA director general Francis Ingham said the Sunday Times sting was another example of Westminster being 'rocked by a "lobbying" scandal that involves absolutely no lobbyists' – instead only politicians and investigative journalists.

Ingham added: ‘The Government's current plans to go ahead with a statutory register of only third-party lobbyists would be worse that useless in dealing with this issue.

‘That is because neither the firm that allegedly hired Tim Yeo for coaching before a committee hearing last month, nor the representatives of the fictional green energy company, would have been required to be included in the Government's proposed register, which excludes in-house lobbying.’

Bell said that the public affairs sector needed ‘openness and transparency’ to solve the issues it is facing, adding that it is ‘competition you want rather than more regulation’.

See how lobbying has hit the headlines so far with PRWeek’s interactive timeline here. 

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