Harriet Harman denies ex-ministers influenced decisions

Commons leader Harriet Harman denied today that ministers had been influenced by the alleged lobbying of former Cabinet ministers into making improper decisions.

In a Commons statement, Ms Harman said ministers in both the Department of Transport and Business were clear that decisions had been made "properly in the public interest".



She confirmed that the Government planned to put a register of lobbying interests on a statutory footing.



But shadow leader of the House Sir George Young warned that far from clarifying the facts, Downing Street had done precisely the opposite and criticised the Prime Minister for ruling out an inquiry.



He said the alleged lobbying of Whitehall departments by former Cabinet ministers, including Stephen Byers, would appaul the public.







The exchanges came after Mr Byers referred himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner John Lyon for an inquiry into his conduct which is unlikely to be completed before the general election.

Former ministers - including Mr Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon - were caught in an undercover "sting" operation for a television documentary, to be broadcast on Channel 4's Dispatches this evening.



The Business and Transport Departments issued statements denying Mr Byers' claims to an undercover reporter that he had secured secret deals with ministers.



The North Tyneside MP has himself retracted the claims, insisting he had "never lobbied ministers on behalf of commercial interests" and had exaggerated his influence.



Ms Harman said the public were entitled to be completely confident that when ministers reached a decision it was made "in the public interest and there is no impropriety whatsoever".



Civil servants in the Department of Health, one of the departments at the centre of the allegations, were satisfied they made the correct decision "in the public interest and were not responding to any inappropriate or undue influence".



In each case raised, the department had looked into the allegations and confirmed they are satisfied decisions had been made "without the impropriety alleged".





Ms Harman said: "The Prime Minister today sought the Cabinet Secretary's assurance that departments had looked into these claims. Permanent secretaries ... have assured the Cabinet Secretary that they are satisified that there has been no improper influence on Government policy or ministerial decisions.

"I want to reassure MPs and the public that ministers act in the public interest. It is an absolutely fundamental part of the duties of their office."



She said any allegation that an MP had broken the code of conduct would be investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the House could impose sanctions.



"We have high standards, clear rules and clear remedy for breach."



Ms Harman said the Government had been working with the lobbying industry to set up a register of lobbyists.



"Building on this work and in the light of the latest allegations, we think this should be put on a statutory footing - that there should be a legal register of lobbyists which would require them to register as lobbyists and to register the identity of clients on whose behalf they are acting.



"This is necessary to give the public confidence that this is the law and it will be complied with."





Sir George said the statement left a number of "unresolved issues" and the fact that Ms Harman had had to make it was an indication of the "seriousness" of the allegations.

He said they threatened to become "the next big scandal in Westminster", adding: "The sight of former Cabinet ministers offering to lobby Government on behalf of corporate interests for private gain - in one case as a kind of "cab for hire" for up to £5,000 a day - will have deeply appalled the public and further undermined trust in politics at a moment when we all hoped we were turning the corner.



"The public will now expect the Government to treat these allegations with the seriousness they deserve.



"But rather than clarifying the facts, Downing Street appears to be doing the opposite."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks
tv

Regular cast member Ste Hay, played by Kieron Richardson, is about to test TV boundaries

Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
techPerils of 'text neck' revealed
News
i100
News
Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt
peopleStonewall boss says many fear it could ruin their careers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager
Isis in Iraq: Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants

Isis takes a big step back

Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants
Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits: How to shop politically

How to shop politically

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits
The science of sex: What happens when science meets erotica

Sex on the brain

Fetishes, dominatrixes, kinks and erotica. They are subjects that should get the crowds flocking to a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection