Lobbying scandal latest: Speaker John Bercow limits release of new Commons passes


Commons Speaker John Bercow today suspended the issuing of new Commons passes to staff working for all-party parliamentary groups amid concerns they are being used as a vehicle for political lobbying at Westminster.

Mr Bercow said there was a need for "urgent and effective action" following allegations that a Tory MP, two Labour lords and an Ulster Unionist peer were prepared to exercise political influence in exchange for cash from undercover reporters posing as lobbyists.

Following a meeting last night of the House of Commons Commission, Mr Bercow said he had instructed the Serjeant at Arms to contact MPs who had sponsored Commons passes for staff working for all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs) in order to confirm they had been "properly requested and allocated". A total of 83 passes are covered by the order.

No new passes will be issued to APPG staff while the situation is reviewed by the Commons Administration Committee who will consider whether it is "necessary or appropriate" for such passes to exist at all.

The Speaker has also written to the chairman of the Commons Standards Committee Kevin Barron to bring forward recommendations for reform of the system of registering and administering APPGs before MPs break next month for the summer recess.

"As Speaker I have long felt that the operation of all party parliamentary groups needed to be improved to meet the high expectations of transparency and accountability required in public life," Mr Bercow said in a statement.

"Recent events have heightened my concern and underlined the need for urgent and effective action".

The Committee on Standards is currently considering a proposals for reform of the APPG system drawn up by a working group led by the Labour former cabinet minister, Jack Straw.

The Tory MP at the centre of the storm, Patrick Mercer, is alleged to have agreed to establish an APPG on Fiji after being contacted by undercover reporters from The Daily Telegraph and the BBC who were posing as lobbyists seeking to get the country's suspension from the Commonwealth lifted.

Mr Mercer has resigned the Conservative whip, referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and announced that he will not stand at the next general election. He said that he is taking legal advice regarding the allegations against him.

Downing Street announced yesterday that a bill to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists will be published before the start of Parliament's summer recess next month.

But the legislation immediately ran into controversy, after it emerged that it will also include provisions which could impose new restrictions on trade union funding of the Labour Party, as well as audits of union membership rolls.

Doubts were raised over whether the Liberal Democrat side of the coalition had signed up to the proposals, after Lib Dem minister Tom Brake - who is leading for the party on lobbying - said the announcement of measures relating to unions was "premature".

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman today told reporters that yesterday's announcement was "very much" on behalf of the whole Government.

"There will be a bill introduced before the summer recess and that bill will have the three components we set out yesterday," he said.

"They are a package designed to address the role of third parties in politics. The bill will be a Government bill, agreed across Government."

Asked if the contents of the bill had already been agreed between the coalition parties, the spokesman appeared to indicate that they had.

But a senior Lib Dem source later told reporters: "I can absolutely categorically tell you that the details have yet to be agreed.

"The Liberal Democrats will not sign up to anything that is tailored only for the trade unions. That is not what this is about. This is about ensuring that third party organisations (are subject to a) more transparent process."

Karen Jennings, assistant general secretary of Unison, said: "These proposals are typical of the Tories playing the same tired old anti-union card. They want to divert attention away from themselves and parliamentary sleaze by turning their fire on the trade union movement.

"We are not lobbyists so we have no place in a Bill about lobbyists. Don't forget that what trade unions do as part of the Labour party, is to give a democratic voice to ordinary people like nurses, paramedics, teaching assistants, librarians and dinner ladies. What we do is above board and transparent and are there to give working people a voice."

Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers' union Aslef, said: "This Government is cynically trying to exploit the lobbying scandal - a problem David Cameron promised, and failed, to address - to crack down on trade unions in this country."



Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed