Political lobbying: The current rules for UK MPs

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There have long been calls for a tightening of the rules on lobbying of politicians but plans for a statutory register of lobbyists have yet to make it into the government's legislative agenda.

But what are the existing regulations on political lobbying?

All MPs, including ministers, are subject to a code of conduct when it comes to their outside interests and dealings.

They can:

  • Be paid to act as a director, consultant, or adviser, or in any other capacity, whether or not such interests are related to membership of the Commons.
  • Be sponsored by a trade union or any other organisation and receive hospitality in the course of their parliamentary duties.

They must:

  • Disclose their financial interests in a Register of Members' Financial Interests
  • Draw attention to any relevant interest when speaking in the Commons or corresponding with ministers, departments or executive agencies
  • Live up to the general principles of public life outlined in the code
  • Take decisions based on the public interest not for their own financial benefit or for that of their family or friends.
  • Not place themselves under any financial obligation to outside individuals or organisations.
  • Make appointments or award contracts on merit not on any other basis.
  • Be accountable for their decisions to the public and submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate
  • Be as open as possible about all decisions and actions they take.
  • Declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
  • Not act as a paid advocate in any parliamentary proceedings. They should not take payment to speak in Parliament, to vote a certain way, to introduce legislation, to amend legislation or to urge others to do so.
  • Not lobby for "reward or consideration" on behalf of any organisation with which they have a declared financial interest.
  • Be open with other MPs and officials about their dealings with any organisation with which they have a financial relationship, including activities which may not be a matter of public record such as informal meetings and functions.
  • Not use information which they receive in confidence in the course of their parliamentary duties for financial gain.

In addition, ministers must comply with guidelines when they leave office:

  • For two years after leaving office, they must get the approval of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments for any appointment or employment they wish to take up.
  • They are expected to accept the committee's advice.
  • Former Cabinet ministers must normally wait three months after leaving office before they can accept any kind of paid employment.
  • Former ministers should not lobby existing ministers on behalf of any organisation for which they are employed for two years after leaving office.

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