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Mr. Salmond: Let us say that a Member of this House declared that he was paid by Westminster Communications--a lobbying company with hundreds of clients. How would the House know for which, if any, of those hundreds of clients the Member was making a case?

Dr. Fox: The best way would be by asking questions openly in a democratic debate. I do not understand the benefit of preventing or restricting the participation of a Member. Declaring and registering an interest should be enough. There is a chance to avoid some of the pitfalls that we have had here in recent years. The Minister should take the opportunity to make matters clearer and more transparent from the outset. If he cannot accept our

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amendments, he should give a commitment to consider similar amendments to ensure that there is not one rule for one and another rule for others.

Mr. Dalyell: I hope that this is the right time to make these points. The Law Society of Scotland is of the view that important matters such as the Register of Members' Interests, being in primary legislation, should be subject to adequate parliamentary scrutiny, and should not be formulated in Standing Orders, which could be subject to simple amendment procedures. It is also concerned that the clause creates the framework for an offence provision but delegates the scope of that offence to the Scottish Parliament in its Standing Orders. Is it appropriate that the Standing Orders should contain provisions creating offences as provided for in subsection (6)?

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine): We support the amendment, because the public's concern about paid advocacy extends beyond the individual to organisations of any description. We hope that the definition extends to private limited companies. People should not be advocating causes on behalf of a financial interest. They should represent the people whom they were elected to serve.

Will the Minister tell us the legal definition of "person"? It would also be helpful if the Conservatives could give us a definition of "organisation". There is some debate about the legal definition of "person". The book provided by the Scottish Office does not extend the definition, leaving the impression that a "person" is an individual. The public would like it extended to cover organisations and other bodies.

Mr. Salmond: For consistency, the Conservatives must withdraw the amendment. They have argued on other amendments for matters to be left to the Parliament. The issue can and should be dealt with in the Standing Orders of the Parliament. We had a brief preliminary discussion at the consultative committee, when the subject was raised obliquely. I am not sure whether anyone has the full answer, but we all recognise that the public believe that there is a huge problem in this place. That problem remains; it has by no means been settled or solved.

We should have a few guiding principles. Members of the Scottish Parliament should be full-time, not part-time. There is a case for someone with a family business still needing to be present in that business, but that is different from someone having 20, 25 or 30 directorships littered around. Even if those directorships are declared, the Member is still cheating his or her constituency and the public.

We had a debate about standards when some hon. Members were embroiled in what became known as the "cash for questions" scandal. One member of the Committee inquiring into that made a speech. It was regarded as acceptable--I checked the Register of Members' Interests--that he had almost 30 directorships.

There is a fairly narrow dividing line between cash for questions and that scandal, and somebody--albeit openly--declaring almost 30 directorships. The new Parliament will have to agree not only that everything should be declared, but a little more. People who have the privilege of serving a constituency should be expected to work full time and devote their time and energy to that job, not serve other interests.

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I sympathise with those who represent voluntary organisations. Indeed, one of my colleagues represents one of the nurses' unions, for very little payment. There may be a case--I have mentioned two of them--for specifying such interests, to ensure that access to Members of Parliament for those who are in difficult circumstances and who are often dispossessed in society is declared. We cannot and must not have a range of allowances whereby people can cheerfully accept salary cheques from 30 or 40 different sources as well as picking up the pay of a Member of the Scottish Parliament.

I have two points for the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox). First, given his previous arguments, should we not leave this matter to the Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament? Secondly, I shall reverse an argument that I have been making. At times during the passage of the Bill, I have tried to protect the Scottish Conservative party from the English Conservative party. Given the contribution of the Scottish Conservative party representative on the consultative committee, I am not certain whether the Scottish Conservative party is fully on board with the spirit of non-advocacy and total declaration that has been presented from the Tory Front Bench. Perhaps the communication lines are not operating between Scotland and Westminster. I suggest that Conservative Front-Bench spokesmen inform their Scottish colleagues of the far more rigorous attitude being adopted--at last--by the Conservative party in Westminster.

7.30 pm

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Kelvin): I sense that Committee members do not want to be detained for long on this matter. I had not intended to speak, but I am tempted to do so by a few of the points raised by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). It may have been a slip of the tongue, but the hon. Member said that this Parliament has "a huge problem" of Members accepting cash for questions. I do not think that that is true. The problem of public perception of Parliament is bad enough, without that comment being allowed to pass unchallenged on to the record.

Mr. Salmond: If the hon. Gentleman checks the record, he will see that I mentioned cash for questions and said that Parliament had a huge problem in its public perception and standing as a result of the many incidents over the past few years, which have certainly created public disquiet and damaged the reputation of this place. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, of all people, does not recognise exactly what I am talking about.

Mr. Galloway: The hon. Gentleman should not be surprised, because, a couple of years ago, I was falsely accused on such matters, and entirely cleared by the Standards and Privileges Committee. I am extremely sensitive to such false or reckless allegations or imputations that we have a huge problem. I do not believe that we have a huge problem. In so far as we have a problem at all, it is certainly made worse by people carelessly, recklessly, tossing around such talk. [Laughter.] The hon. Gentleman laughs, but it is no laughing matter.

More importantly, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan, rather contradictorily, raised the issue of Members' outside interests. He said that it is all right if a

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Member has a family business or a family farm, but it is not all right if a Member has directorships. He did not deal with the issue of newspaper columnists, for example. I declare an interest as a newspaper columnist--as is the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Jenkin: Is he paid for it?

Mr. Galloway: I am certain that he is paid--but not as well as I.

Will Members of the Scottish Parliament be allowed to write columns for The Herald in Glasgow and remain MSPs? It is preposterous to say that they could not. Where do we draw the line--at newspaper columnists, farmers, participants in a family business? This fraught area deserves more careful consideration.

Mr. Wallace: Does the hon. Gentleman think that the line might be drawn by the electorate? Candidates should make it clear whether they intend to engage in any other activities, and voters will decide whether it should be dealt with.

Mr. Galloway: The hon. and learned Gentleman anticipated exactly what I was going to say. Who sits in the Scottish Parliament ought to be a matter for the electors. Electors are fully aware when a candidate goes before them of the profession, business interests and jobs in which the candidate will continue to be involved. If the electorate were not aware, it would be the job of the opposition parties to draw it to their attention. It is easy to take a cheap, populist line in this area, but if it is not thought through, very many people will be precluded from standing for the Parliament.

There is an argument with which we are all familiar. I heard it from a Conservative Member, who very persuasively made the point that, as a dentist, he had to keep his hand in. It was rather an apt pun, but it is absolutely accurate. I do not know whether he is still an hon. Member.

Dr. Fox: I should point out to the hon. Gentleman that, as a former obstetrician, I would not like to go down that line.

Mr. Galloway: I shall not follow the hon. Gentleman down that line. [Laughter.] When one is in a hole, it is best to stop digging. [Laughter.] The hon. Member in question may have lost his seat in the interim.

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