MPs debate plans for statutory register of lobbyists

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MPs should not give parliamentary passes to lobbyists, the leader of the House of Commons has said.

Andrew Lansley said passes giving access to the Commons should be for the "purpose of supporting MPs in their parliamentary responsibilities, not for the benefit of third parties".

He said Speaker John Bercow was "absolutely right" to refer the issue to the Parliamentary Standards Committee earlier this month.

Mr Lansley's commentscame during a Labour-led debate on lobbying on 24 June 2013, in which the opposition called for cross-party talks on enshrining a statutory register of lobbyists in law, including a statutory code of conduct with clear sanctions for breaches of the code.

"We need a lobbying bill which will begin the process of cleaning up our politics … and to create a level playing field for all those professional lobbyists who do behave ethically but who are constantly undermined by a few who are not playing by the rules. Nothing less will do," shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett argued.

Mr Lansley said the government had committed to bringing forward a bill before the summer recess to introduce a statutory register or lobbyists.

He, and several other Conservative MPs, noted that Labour had done nothing to "clean up" lobbying during their 13 years in power.

Mr Lansley told the Commons the government's bill would create "clarity, transparency and openness" without placing a "disproportionate burden" on those who lobby government and Parliament "legitimately".

Graham Allen, Labour MP and chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, said the bill was too "short-term" and "not part of a serious well-thought out reform package".

"Rather than legislate in haste, would it not be better to look at this matter in the parliamentary way with proper pre-legislation and the proper response to the select committee by all parts of this House," he questioned.

Liberal Democrat John Thurso said his party had a long history of seeking to try to clean up lobbying.

He told MPs it must be clear "who is doing the lobbying" which is why including professional lobbyists in the scope of the bill is "so important".

"We should should just get on with it and make sure it happens," he added.

Labour's motion calling for a statutory register with a clear code of conduct backed up by sanctions was defeated in a vote by a government majority of 50.

The government amendment - noting Labour's failure to introduce a statutory register and the coalition's commitment to bring forward legislation before the summer recess starting in July - was approved by 70.

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