LETTER:Tell the truth in Parliament

From Mr Michael Burrell

Sir: Your front-page story ("Secrets of the MPs who help lobbyists," 3 October) is not a balanced account of what I said at a conference on Monday and, subsequently, to your Westminster correspondent Chris Blackhurst.

After the conference he asked me to amplify comments I had made about the House of Lords. It rapidly became clear that he meant the House of Commons, since his interest was in standing committees which deal with Bills. The committee stage for a Bill in the Lords is taken on the floor of the House, not in a standing committee.

I repeated to him - common knowledge, not a "secret" - that MPs who wanted to sit on a standing committee for a particular B ill would seek to speak on Second Reading, since demonstrating an interest in the Bill in this way was one of the factors taken into account by the party whips when they recommend who should be on the committee.

I said that MPs who wanted to be on a committee would be well advised to demonstrate an interest in the Bill as a whole, rather than just a narrow point, and to speak in a moderate (not moderated) rather than an extremist way.

I was, indeed, angry, not for the reason implied - I have never known an MP who said one thing to get on a committee, and then said another - but because your reporter's question bore no relation to the point I was making.

Chris Blackhurst chose not to report one of the main pieces of advice I gave at this conference, as at every conference I have ever spoken at on lobbying - "Tell the truth".

Yours faithfully,

Michael Burrell

Managing Director

Westminster Strategy

London, SW1

3 October