No 10 plans statutory register of lobbyists bill by July

 
Lord Cunningham, Lord Laird and Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Lord Cunningham, Lord Laird and Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate all deny wrongdoing

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Legislation to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists will be published in the next couple of months, Downing Street has said.

No 10 said it would also include proposed reforms to party funding and changes to trade union rules.

The BBC's Norman Smith said this would be politically contentious and could make it harder to get agreement.

It comes after three peers and an MP were accused of agreeing to do parliamentary work for payment.

Lord Cunningham, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and Lord Laird, and MP Patrick Mercer all deny wrong-doing and their cases are being investigated by standards watchdogs.

The coalition pledged to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists when it came to power in 2010 but critics have accused the government of inaction over the issue.

'Shabby'

Following the latest revelations, No 10 said it would bring forward a bill before the end of July.

As well as plans for a statutory register, Downing Street said it would include measures to end self-certification of trade union membership and reform third-party funding of election campaigns.

These are likely to be controversial as the unions are large financial backers of Labour.

Secret filming shows Patrick Mercer MP signing a contract with a fake lobbying company set up by BBC Panorama

The end of self-certification for trade unions means they will be required to carry out an annual audit of their membership and demonstrate that the figures they produce are accurate.

A certification officer will be given the power to conduct investigations into the numbers produced, which are vital when ballots on strike action are conducted.

The reform of the third-party funding of election campaigns would attempt to close a loophole in rules governing the cap on spending by political parties during an election period.

Currently, for instance, if a political party was to ask a trade union to print leaflets on its behalf, the only cost to that political party would be the cost of the printing itself.

The bill would seek to ensure a party was liable for the full expense of related overheads - such as staffing and rent for premises - where that organisation is affiliated to the party or gives it more than £100,000 a year.

'Greater transparency'

A Labour source said including the union measures in the lobbying bill was "shabby... cheap politics".

"The best way to proceed if you want to take big money out of politics and clean up the lobbying scandal is to act on a cross-party basis," they added.

"This seems to be a shabby and panicked response by David Cameron to divert attention from a set of damaging headlines hitting the Conservative Party."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The government is cynically trying to exploit a political sleaze scandal to crack down on unions, which are democratic and accountable organisations."

Karen Jennings, assistant general secretary of Unison, a union representing public sector workers, said: "We are not lobbyists, so we have no place in a bill about lobbyists."

Earlier on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the latest "unsettling but not surprising" allegations were symptomatic of a political system "long crying out for head-to-toe reform".

He said: "We need to be realistic: there is no single, magical protection against an individual politician determined to behave unethically or inappropriately."

The debate follows the release by the Sunday Times of secretly-filmed footage that shows Lord Laird, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and Lord Cunningham appearing to offer to help a fake solar energy company.

The House of Lords code of conduct says peers cannot engage in "paid advocacy" - using their access to Parliament to make a profit.

On Saturday, the BBC's Panorama programme released footage - again secretly filmed - of Mr Mercer appearing to offer a Commons security pass to a fake Fijian firm that paid him £4,000 to ask parliamentary questions

All four have denied breaking parliamentary rules but have referred themselves to the standards watchdog.

Panorama will be shown on BBC One at 21:00 BST on Thursday.

 

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  • rate this
    +48

    Comment number 19.

    "our leaders are trusted servants, not our masters". Will these men face criminal charges? Because the crimes they are willing to commit here seem quite serious, yet I doubt they'll even get CS.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 18.

    I agree with Mr Tonge. It should be a criminal offence to corrupt, or attempt to corrupt, a public servant. With mandatory jail time for those found guilty.

  • rate this
    +95

    Comment number 17.

    I bet none of them go to jail.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 16.

    MP's, Lords, councillors etc. need their remuneration cut across the board, especially those who are already millionaires - i.e. half or more of the present cabinet.

    We need to root out the gravy train career politician brigade and have elected public servants who actually wish to serve the public. Far too many go into politics already wealthy and then just line their pockets.

  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 15.

    Although I agree that these politicians have done wrong and should be punished, isn't there an element of entrapment from the even more sleazy Murdoch empire?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 14.

    Ref 2

    No not really - are the corrupt going to report themselves?

    The fact that News International can influence politicians then they are doubly damned.

    It is time for a change to our completely undemocractic "Red ping - Blue Pong" elected dictatorships from misgoverning our country.

    It is a farce.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 13.

    Its pure greed bordering on criminality.Why do we need nearly 800 peers to start with?They should number same as the commons and be elected for similar terms or appointed for same terms of office as MP's.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    Is anyone really surprised? This is how neo-corporatism works.

  • rate this
    +117

    Comment number 11.

    I see Politicians still don't get the message!

    Until such time as being an MP is a fulll time job with fixed hours and holidays with clear terms of employment it will never change.

    The £1000 a day fee proposed by the MP is evidence that it is not seen as a full time job!

    The problem is that the Right Honorable Gentlemen are neither Honourable or Gentlemen!

  • rate this
    +182

    Comment number 10.

    Until these actions result in prison then they will continue.

  • rate this
    +47

    Comment number 9.

    Why waste time on additional laws when existing ones on corruption and fraud are not being applied to those politicians whose standards fall below those expected of normal citizens?

    The only additional law required is one to enable constituents to force a by-election if dissatisfied with their MP's performance.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 8.

    Depressing!

    I'd hoped the age of the 'bung' was long gone.

    MPs/Peer should be banned from any external work - its bound to be a conflict of interest - and anyone who breaks the rule spends 20 years in prison!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 7.

    David Laws, Mr Clegg? Sleaze is and always will be part of politics it attracts those prone to sleaze. Ask Julius Caesar.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 6.

    Controversially, I'd suggest paying MPs more might help.

    Get rid of expenses beyond out of pocket, all second salaries unless completely unrelated to their political work.

    The salaries seem low considering how precarious and time-consuming the job is, and compared to local govt management.

    So, raise the salaries, simplify the system. Sack and imprison offenders.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 5.

    ...said the sleaziest politician I know.

  • rate this
    +136

    Comment number 4.

    It's not possible to consider our country a democracy until money can't influence political decisions. There have been lot's of policy changes recently which appear to be advantageous to corporate entities rather than the general population. MP's should be there to make a difference and not to make money. We have every right to expect greater morality from MP's they are supposed to be leading us.

  • rate this
    +217

    Comment number 3.

    CORRUPTION

    It's not sleeze, it's CORRUPTION.

    Calling it sleeze is a way for the BBC to help the power elite damage the country.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 2.

    Am I the only person who finds irony in the fact that News International reporters have been running a sting operation to establish if underhand influencing of politicians can work?

  • rate this
    +179

    Comment number 1.

    Yep, we have heard this all before...how about a radical idea, If you are elected as a MP then you get paid to devote all your time to doing that job for the period.

    I know it sounds daft, get paid, do a job 100% then go home, but we all have to, go on give it a try!

 

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