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
    +2

    Comment number 39.

    And these are only the guys that got caught out. Which means there are many corrupt polititians still in office.

    As for suspension! This should be a capital offense punishable with imprisonment and not let out early because of influential friends.

    One rule for them and one rule for the rest of us. And since they makecthe rules as they go along, what hope is there of internal reform? None.

  • rate this
    +46

    Comment number 38.

    Rich powerful people trying to cheat the system to become more rich?

    Surely not!

    (is anyone else becoming sick of the three main parties abusing the system yet? I got sick of it a long time ago, lets get rid of these people and their dirty system).

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 37.

    I'm so sick of hearing about corrupt politicians. They make the rules to suit themselves.

    I'm fed up with paying for these people to sit in judgement on the rest of us when they aren't fit to hold public office themselves. They're all as bad as each other.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 36.

    'Mr Clegg also said he wanted a new power of recall so that MPs found guilty of serious misconduct could be forced to resign.'

    Could be ?

    Shouldn't that read "will be."

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 35.

    More reforms..More enquiries..and after that we will hear "lessons learned"..this time next year..or maybe two it all happens over again..please stop, just stop being dodgy, if your willing to accept a privileged office or position of state then you know (if not law) moral good and bad..or perhaps, maybe, they just dont care..we the voters only have ourselves to blame.

  • rate this
    +89

    Comment number 34.

    This has got to be the tip of the iceberg. Why does nobody mention the privatisation of the NHS, the forced academisation of schools or the literally BILLIONS of pounds that PFI contacts costs the tax payer? Corruption is the word I'd use rather than sleaze.

  • rate this
    +69

    Comment number 33.

    Critics have said the Government have been slow introduce legislation agains sleaze. And why do you think that is? Because half the Cabinet must be running around like headless chickens wondering how to cover their tracks about dodgy deals they're mixed up in!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 32.

    As I understand it the sleeze is with parliament and not the lobby groups.

    If the rules are broken in industry (apart from the bankers) then they "resign" - why does this not apply to parliament.

    I think the answer is simple - there would be nobody left.

  • rate this
    +97

    Comment number 31.

    Here we have a bunch of hypocrites that want to award themselves a £30,000 pay rise. Rotten to the core.

    I was particularly disappointed to see Jack Cunningham had his fingers in the till too. Just goes to show, no one can be trusted, not a single one of them.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 30.

    I do wonder if this "corrupt" money ever gets declared for Income Tax.
    Maybe HMRC could comment.

  • rate this
    +73

    Comment number 29.

    Yeah - like an MP goes into government to 'help' - they are in it for themselves and the big fat taxpayer swag bags of cash - and their expenses obviously.

    MP's are so discredited that no-one believes a word they say. They don't live in the real world they are supposed to represent - the public are seen as a means to an end.

    ...and they all laugh at us while sticking their snouts in the trough.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 28.

    Well now Nick's on the case it's bound to happen (well unless you're a student)!
    Frankly though, if you dangle a bunch of carrots in a field full of donkey's you'll always get one of two ambling over for a nibble! Not that it's right, we should expect better standards from politicians, but this kind of 'gutter' style entrapment journalism is a tad questionable! Are the BBC really the new NotW?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 27.

    Our current system is broken, reform of lobbying law is just the first step needed to free our govt from the control of corporate interests and put it back to the job of looking after it's citizens. We've been way too far down the list for too long.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 26.

    I'm either cynical, a conspiracy theorist or both.
    The last sleaze scandal started with a Tory and then developed to besmirch the other parties in far harsher terms.
    Now we have a Tory, at odds with his leader appearing to be a sacrificial lamb before a UUP and 2 Labour peers are accused of impropriety.
    Did anyone ever check if MP's are allowed to claim for 1st class travel when buying 2nd class?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 25.

    Politicians and Greed are like Hand and Glove

  • rate this
    +141

    Comment number 24.

    No doubt another smokescreen to disguise the true nature of most of our politicians at all levels - self serving, greedy, power mad and intent on maintaining the status quo.

    We need proper democracy and politicians who are 'of the people' not this shower of Etonian crooks.

  • rate this
    +26

    Comment number 23.

    Statutory registration for lobbyists is a silly idea. If I meet my MP for a drink and we discuss politics does that make me a lobbyist in need of registration.

    The laws we have (if applied to all politicians) are already good enough. If an MP takes money from a lobbyist, the MP should go to jail. How complicated does it need to be

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 22.

    What's going on? Surely in a free market economy one should be able to buy all the democracy one can afford!

  • rate this
    +79

    Comment number 21.

    History has proven our political system is institutionally corrupt and is not fit for purpose. It needs to be redesigned and rebuilt.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 20.

    We won't need anti-sleaze laws when we get rid of all dishonest MPs!

 

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