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
    0

    Comment number 979.

    Way this lot are going, they and the bankers will be the only ones int country who have jobs. Nice work if you can get it, come the revolutionary next election, eh!.The only buisinesses open ont high street will be banks and charity shops,and in all truth, these two are streets apart, so whats a little thieving man in no parlesment, when compared to that. End of day,everyone votes for themselves.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 978.

    Let's face it - the biggest sin in British politics is GETTING CAUGHT, otherwise, the rule is "anything goes".

    Just ask yourselves why these people resign the party whip but don't resign as MPs.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 977.

    This is closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.

    The Digital Economy Act was already shoved down our throats by BPI lobbyists.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 976.

    This is all very interesting but can anyone tell me how the effort to reform the banks is going? I see despite being given yet more public money they are still lending less to small businesses than they were last year. How is all that going? Gosh I hope it hasn't been buried by all this "bent peer" scandal has it? Surely not?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 975.

    Earlier this evening on radio 4, Eddie Mair asked his interviewee if,regardless of a register, the proposed lobbying bill would prevent scenarios such as the current scandal.
    .....erm ,well no.

    Says it all really.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 974.

    It seems MP's, of any party, are capable of dirty tricks. Yet they are accountable to no-one, except themselves. The people of this country deserve better. We are all now more aware of what they are up to and won't put up with it. Turn-outs in elections are falling, in alot of cases only a small minority of the electorate vote for the winning MP, just remember that, MP's.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 973.

    This latest (ie they got caught) is a symptom of a political culture dominated by a political class who have lived like the common herd does.

    The point about this tranche of shysters caught with their hands in the till is not 'what they have done' so much as, they 'never, ever thought it was wrong'.

    These Oxbridge greasers & wannabe chums see life as road paid with easy money. Our money.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 972.

    I've been watching "The Thick Of It" a BBC (ironically) made comedy about the extreme inept & corrupt carry on in British Government & Politics.
    I strongly recommend it's viewing to everyone on this forum. It is absolutely hilarious & I suspect not too far from the reality of corruption & ineptness in British Politics nowadays.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 971.

    What is more alarming than this revelation is the fact that Cameron, as Prime Minister, knows full well what his ministers, MP's and the Lords are up to in respect if Lobbying in Westminster.

    It is absurd to believe otherwise.

    That is why the banks and major financial players are untouchable.

    Come clean Cameron, Clegg & Milliband, your game is up for sure now!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 970.

    If the illegal lobbying had been carried out in one of the other 22 languages of the EU, instead of in English, think how much harder it would have been to track those deals.
    Lobbying of EU politicians goes on all the time in Europe.
    We don`t know how many rules we are now conforming to because of lobbying by large companies within the EU.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 969.

    To
    the truth, I've been pulling your legs, I love all politicians, and think the sun shines out of all of their back windows, I think it's commie propaganda to suggest that any of them have ever defrauded Joe public. They are perfect human beans and work their socks off for our eternal benefit, and we should be glad we have them. I think that they are all worth £millions£. Mark this one down.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 968.

    Mp's are on a salary that most of us would kill for, expenses that we have no chance of ever having added to our salary, and yet they still break the rules and are on the take.
    How dare these shysters tell the poor and disabled in the UK that THEY have to make do with less, I for one am totally sick of our Political leaders and all of their evil machinations.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 967.

    When politicians cry out "here here" are they indicating their open wallets, obviously the only things that are open all year round as regards to Westminster.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 966.

    I urge all people not to vote....its a complete farce...especially the labour party,who quite frankly, are a laughing stock.anyway were being run by the humans rights people and the even bigger laughing stock in brussels.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 965.

    While I admire the work of the "theyworkforyou.com" website, perhaps it's title needs revising, as it seems absurdly optimistic.

    ...officiallytheyworkforyou.com, as in reality, they spend most/all of their time moonlighting for the highest paid lobbyist and spinning it into a policy in the voters' interests!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 964.

    Nothing any politician of whatever party does will convince me that they are acting for the benefit of the taxpayer. It is painfully obvious that they are all intent on one thing only; feathering their own nests and to hell with the public. What happened to all the good intentions after they were caught with their fingers in the expenses till.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 963.

    Never mind legislation, all MP's should wear a football strip in their parties colors, and anybody that bungs them get's their company name on the top, just like football sponsorship. And the public do not pay for them any more, no more gold plated pensions and expenses they make their living from sponsors and get massive fines when they muck up as they do on a regular basis.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 962.

    Just because a man wears a suit, does not make him decent. It is not impossible that our democracy has not been hijacked, but I feel that it has been.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 961.

    Our Legal Profession make a nice living by going after people who sell us duff products.
    Look forward to see how far they go to protect us from duff Politicians.
    Or it OK to keep bad Politicians in a cushy job?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 960.

    @947. Mike
    >>So it's "shabby and panicked" but Labour haven't seen the document

    Mike, come on. It's time to stop taking notice of what ANY of them say and just look at the things they do. As @946 has rightly said anyone who votes for one of the major parties after the last 10 years really wants their head (and or wallet) examined. Time for real change - not more yah-boo politics.

 

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