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
    +54

    Comment number 379.

    Like many here who feel frustrated and powerless. What we need is continuous assessment of them - they are keen to inflict that on the rest of us. A yearly review and targets set. ( & not by their peers )

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 378.

    Listening to Zak Goldsmith articulating nothing in particular on the BBC News Channel makes me wonder why we don't just give MP's a grant for being utterly useless. That way they wouldn't need to be bribed by lobbyists....

  • rate this
    +67

    Comment number 377.

    I personally think it's time parliament - the Lords and the Commons, was fully and independently investigated on behalf of the public/taxpayer.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 376.

    Another example of a small minority of public officials’ acting in a corrupt manner. The main problem is the politicians who do not act in this way either turn a blind eye to those that do or are incompetent.
    Why not introduce performance related pay for MPs? They can be judged on the amount of corruption disclosed by anyone but themselves and achieving manifesto commitments.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 375.

    355. Dave Bear. We can stop swallowing this infantilised, pretend realm of princes, lords and undeserving hierarchies, constructed by unelected aristocrats for a start. More protests, less docile acceptance. We need to wake up and demand more than a congealed, two-party 'adversarial' system which maintains the status quo at all costs The answer does not lie within the system but outside of it.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 374.

    Takes a lot for a politician to resign and disappear from public life these days. And when they do, they are back within weeks. Come back Profumo, all is forgiven!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 373.

    To (mis) quote the great BIlly Connely

    " the desire to be a politician should be enought to result in a bar for life"

    Time and time again, our rulers are found to be on the take, corrupt and dishonest. It doesnt make any difference which party or parties are in power they are all the same - tainted, despised and untrusted.

    Politician = word of contempt.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 372.

    'Anti-sleaze reforms'
    Having the Government say they'll do this, is like having a bank say they'll look after your money.

    Hmm, how'd that work out again?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 371.

    363. Adam

    "Their knighthoods and peerages stripped and banned from Parliament"

    That's impossible under current legislation. Once somebody is made a member of the House of Lords, they're there for life.

    A private members bill came before the House of Commons last year that would have made it possible for corrupt peers to be expelled, but the government blocked it.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 370.

    This will keep happening over & over again until politicians start to get prosecuted for corruption.

    Mind you, it's odd that the BBC is happy to run this story but not report that elsewhere speculation is rife over the identity of a mystery pair linked to No 10 having an affair - allegedly.

    There again I guess it's not surprising there's no mention of it..

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 369.

    You can be 100% sure that this incident just represents the tip of a HUGE iceberg. It should have been obvious to everyone in the UK, after the banking scandal, where criminals were allowed to go free with their millions, whilst the proles are made to suffer. We genuinely need a revolution, politicians have been allowed to fill their own pockets and their corporate buddies for far too long.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 368.

    Nick Clegg is quite right to reiterate his reform policy of the House of Lords following the shameful conduct of the three Lords of the second chamber. All the world have an esteem for the Westminster style,but these three have lowered it, and appropriate action should be in the offing to dispel that filthy perception as soon as possible.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 367.

    This behaviour, more than anything, shows us exactly what Politicians think of the people they represent!

    We are essentially worthless when they take the opportunity to abuse their privileged position for a monthly retainer some voters take a year to earn!

    It is quite simply disgusting.

    All of this rhetoric from Cam & Clegg can be taken with a pinch of salt too!

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 366.

    You can sense the absolute desperation of everyone posting here. The feeling of powerlessness, of not being able to do anything to challenge our political elite apart from wait another 3 years for the next General Election.

    Even then, you cannot trust what the next lot are going to get up to.

    We need a fresh start, a written constitution and real time interaction with our representatives

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 365.

    "All four have denied breaking parliamentary rules but have referred themselves to the standards watchdog" This would mean more if they had done that IMMEDIATELY after the mtgs,espeically if their defence could be that they were "playing along" with the "lobbyists" and never had any intention of taking any money! I work for a govt body and have to declare if I a supplier buys me a cup of coffee!!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 364.

    Greed, greed, greed.
    Allegedly you've got an ex-Army officer (Mercer) on a generous Army pension trying to hoover up more cash; an ex-MP (Cunningham) in the Lords on an ex-MPs fat pension doing the same and (surprise, surprise) an ex-copper (Mackenzie) allegedly adding to his over-generous police pension. Who DO these people think they are?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 363.

    This is fraud/corruption whichever way you slice it. They should be charged and tried, hopefully convicted and sent to jail with a heavy fine. Their knighthoods and peerages stripped and banned from Parliament. This is the small tip of a very big iceberg I'd bet. PM Cameron needs to get a grip on this - no paid employment or 'consulting', board memberships etc for MPs, also scrap the Lords too!!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 362.

    I am sure even the supposed new anti-sleaze taskforce/quango can be bribed just as easily as anyone else.

    Any chance of any criminal investigation or anyone being stripped of their title for this serious breach of public confidence?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 361.

    Are we surprised, more sleeze, more "we all in it together - except for us in the Houses of Parliament". We subsidise their food, their houses, their travel and pay them a salary most of us can only dream of and still they want more- sack the whole lot of them and start again!!!

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 360.

    I don't understand how the country isnt exploding after news like this coming out. This is blatant corruption, it makes me so angry I could scream and most people don't seem to care.

    Our 'leaders' are on the take, and we expect them to regulate themselves. The statutory register won't be even close to enough, we need mandatory jail terms for anyone offering or accepting a bribe.

 

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