Bill against lobbying deals ‘must be tougher’, anti-sleaze watchdog warns
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Tuesday 05 November 2013
A tougher crackdown on lobbying than that planned by the Government is needed to help restore public trust in politics, the anti-sleaze watchdog will warn in a report published today.
The independent Committee on Standards in Public Life expresses concern that the Coalition’s proposed register of third-party lobbyists will not allay people’s fears about “the confluence of money, influence, power and vested interests”.
Its criticism will increase pressure on ministers to beef up the Lobbying Bill during its passage through the Lords, which resumes today. Critics claim only one per cent of lobbyists would be covered by the register.
The anti-sleaze committee calls for:
* Restrictions on former MPs working as lobbyists for two years after leaving Parliament;
* Compulsory “ethics training” for new MPs and peers;
* Tougher rules to prevent a conflict of interest when officials move jobs between government and business, or are on secondment;
* Swift disclosure of the subject of meetings between ministers and outside groups or companies;
* Clearer rules on ex-ministers taking jobs in the private sector;
* Special advisers to ministers to be subject to tighter rules about their contacts with outsiders;
* Gifts and hospitality offered to public servants by lobbyists to be rejected;
* MPs receiving outside payments to be banned from initiating parliamentary proceedings or approaching ministers in the interests of those paying them;
* MPs to disclose family members involved in public-sector lobbying.
Lord (Paul) Bew, the crossbench peer who chairs the committee, called for a “change of culture” in public life.
The committee warns: “Recent individual examples of abuse (real or perceived) have contributed to a growing public cynicism which has led to a lack of trust and confidence in political decision making. Whilst this committee generally welcomes proposals that third-party lobbyists should be obliged to register and disclose the names of the clients on behalf of whom they act, we doubt that a register of third-party lobbyists is the key to reform.”
It warns that “the revolving door” in which people switch from the public to private sector, and secondments between them, raises the risk of potential conflicts of interest.
“Hiring people either permanently or temporarily with contacts or knowledge gained from their time in government or the public sector can be seen as an attempt to buy access and influence,” it says.
There were more than 200 secondments to the Treasury between 2007 and 2011, largely from major accountancy firms, provoking claims that they helped clients to exploit tax loopholes. More than 50 people were seconded to the Department for Energy and Climate Change between 2008 and 2011, including some from energy firms.
Several former MPs have gone on to work for lobbyists, and the committee says: “It is important for public confidence in Parliament to ensure that, during their time in the House, members are not perceived to be influenced in their behaviour by the hope or expectation of future personal gain.”
- 2 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 3 A-level results 2015: UK exam board OCR admits it 'estimates' hundreds of pupils' grades after papers 'go missing'
- 4 Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks busy Dublin road
- 5 'Cool kids' can go on to become losers in later life, study finds
Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
'Gene drive': Scientists sound alarm over supercharged GM organisms which could spread in the wild and cause environmental disasters
Edward Heath 'child sex abuse' allegation: Investigation to be held into Wiltshire police handling of alleged claim in the 1990s
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke
A-level results 2015: UK exam board OCR admits it 'estimates' hundreds of pupils' grades after papers 'go missing'
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality
£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Garden Centre complex base...
£36000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Buyer is required to join thi...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45000: SThree: SThree Group have been well es...