Watchdog calls for curbs on lobbying

Click to follow
Indy Politics

MPs should be barred from lobbying ministers about subjects in which they have a financial interests, the Commons' standards committee recommended yesterday.

MPs should be barred from lobbying ministers about subjects in which they have a financial interests, the Commons' standards committee recommended yesterday.

Although members cannot indulge in "paid advocacy" in Parliament, there is nothing in the current rules to stop them from working behind the scenes to further the interests of their paymasters.

A report from the Standards and Privileges Committee proposed the change among other adjustments to rules on MPs' interests. It also recommended that they should no longer be barred from promoting the interests of governments that have paid for their foreign trips, as reported in The Independent earlier this year.

The relaxation would allow opposition spokesmen and backbenchers of all parties to table questions and initiate debates about countries they have visited.

The Tories have raised concerns over the ban concerning overseas visits, as it limits the ability of their spokesmen to make use of fact-finding trips. The report said MPs should still be barred from advocating increases in financial assistance to countries where they have been guests of the government.

The committee also recommended increasing the value of gifts MPs may accept without declaring them in the register of members' interests, from £125 to £235. The same threshold would apply to annual earnings from outside employment resulting from their position - such as political journalism - and should rise with pay toremain at 0.5 per cent of theparliamentary salary,the committee suggested.

MPs should be required to register any land or property - other than their homes - which is worth more than half, or provides an income of more than 10 per cent, of their £48,371 parliamentary salary, the committee said.

Benefits from overseas trusts should be registered, it said, even if the MP is only a "potential" beneficiary, as the Tory Teresa Gorman was in a recent case. She was barred from the House for a month after failing to register properties that were held in her husband's name by a trust based in Guernsey.

The committee's chairman, Robert Sheldon, wrote to all MPs yesterday to invite their comments on the changes. It is hoped they will be implemented before the general election.

Comments