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
    +3

    Comment number 479.

    Action is needed to stop MPs/Lords leeching off us
    So, reduce their numbers by half
    Next set out their terms and conditions: no other employment; no expenses for 2nd homes etc
    Also they should be made to use our public services. No private health or education for a start. Harsh maybe but these services would improve dramatically
    Then move them out of the Palaces of Westminster. Far too costly

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 478.

    Ban all lobbying for a start! Is it just me or does the whole concept of companies, organizations etc being allowed to try and influence supposedly unbiased politicians seem just WRONG?!

    Secondly, ban all politicians from having any income from outside of parliament. If an MP's salary is not enough then don't be an MP.

    Any MP who thinks the above is too restrictive is the type we don't want.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 477.

    When will our politicians learn they are NOT above the law of the land.

    Corruption is still alive and kicking amongst those we voted in to serve us the voting public and not themselves.

    I thought this was to be one of Mr Cameron's crusades rid us of currupt politicians however it's another failure to be added to the ever increasing list.

    Just how much money do these people need?

  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 476.

    I definitely float in a soup of iridescent honesty when reading these contributions. Obviously everyone here always demands VAT receipts for those boiler, plumbing, plastering and electrical jobs around the home. No dodgy copies of anything, nothing from under the counter, no illegal downloads, no fiddled expenses, no nicked pens from work
    Thank you, incorruptable bloggers. Faith restored!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 475.

    Rather than just say suspend them for 5 - 10 years, they should be prosecuted for Gross misconduct in a public office. This is ongoing and will not stop because the people with the power to do something would have this apply to them. Why not give it to the judges who are beyond politics to run the standards watchdog?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 474.

    Better late than never - but this legislation has been too long in the coming. It was supposed to be one fo the Tory Party's priorities.....

  • rate this
    +65

    Comment number 473.

    Just when will the political elite realise that their behaviour and greed are the very things that are slowly destroying the democratic process in this country?

    They keep saying that they will get their house in order but then along comes the next scandal... they seem completely incapable of learning from their "mistakes".

    Power corrupts... absolute power, corrupts absolutely.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 472.

    MPs ethical compass points directly to their wallets.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 471.

    So a company which abides by badly-written tax laws has no morals, a person who cannot find a job is a skiver & workshy, yet if you are an MP or Lord it's OK to take bribes, fiddle your expenses & fail to provide an honest day's work for the already high salary you decide to pay yourself by taking on additional work for personal gain?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 470.

    Sleeze?

    Stop it Antie....

    "Criminality" is the word you're looking for. Please adjust your spell-checker.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 469.

    447.whambam
    How many people would have to march on parliament before police/troops were forced to choose a side?
    ///
    Before you can work that one out people will need to stop accepting everything thrown at them by the Govt / Opposition as the truth or what is best for us.

    That's why no one marches on Parliament.

    The UK public are being taken for fools by these people on a daily.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 468.

    Talking of the MP's Pay & Pensions consultation of last year & the number of people on here saying that "something should be done", according to the 1st report on the consultation there were only 100 responses which directly addressed the questions. Only 69 were from members of the public, The rest were from parties,MPs etc.& 8 from other interested parties. You had your chance & only 69 took it!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 467.

    447.whambam
    19 Minutes ago
    How many people would have to march on parliament before police/troops were forced to choose a side?

    About 5 mate, and they would NOT be on the side of the people

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 466.

    Not heard much about the moral compass that tax avoiders get accused of not having. One rule for politicians and the big earners and another for joe public. Always the cry of its not illegal, but its always immoral.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 465.

    Heard a representative of the lobbying industry on the radio. He said that lobbying made for good legislation, question I ask is "good for whom?"

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 464.

    Whilst both the expenses and lobbying sagas reflect badly on MP for being dishonest and being self serving - I actually see some of the abuses relating to lobby as far more concerning for this actually distorts democracy. Any lobbying interests need not just to be transparent but actually publicises as opposed to just tucked away in a declare record of interest.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 463.

    I am confused. I think we would all like to see politicians who act in line with the will of the majority and implement, up hold and protect laws and rules which are in the best interests of that majority.... but in the UK that now seems to be immediately labelled as FASCISM or something of that ilk!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 462.

    Fashion news: Red is the new pink
    Political news: Sleaze is the new Corruption

    In next weeks news: Ordinary UK folk are the new terrorists - requiring government to pass the snoopers charter to stop us all from talking about our evil deeds.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 461.

    430.Dave Mudie - 343."sorry to correct you but this has been recommended by Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)"

    Ah,that was the public consultation on MP's pay & pensions. I was referring to the YouGov poll of MP's that ran along side it. Which is what I thought you were referring to initially! Apologies..

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 460.

    The Untouchables strike again!!!
    How much will this investigation cost the tax payer this time?
    It will never stop until the people of the UK do a Turkey round.
    But that wont happen because the Govt with the help of MSM would rather have you divided and fight each other.
    Lets do what we do best and sit back, let them get away with whatever and moan grown and fight with each other.

 

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