5. A broad look is needed at contact between
those working in the public sector and those attempting to influence
their decisions. (Paragraph 13)
6. Although many of our recommendations are
relevant to the whole of the public sector, this Report necessarily
concentrates on the framework within which Ministers and civil
servants are lobbied. (Paragraph 14)
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
7. Because secret lobbying by its very nature
leaves no evidence trail, there could still be a significant problem
even with little concrete evidence of one. (Paragraph 36)
8. Some of the concerns that exist around improper
influence are closely linked to the power of informal networks
of friendships and relationships. (Paragraph 41)
9. The Government's encouragement of wider engagement
in the policy process is to be welcomed. The challenge, however,
is to ensure not just that this engagement is even-handed, but
also that it is seen to be even-handed. Token engagement breeds
cynicism, and is worse than no engagement at all. (Paragraph 42)
10. Lobbyists do not want their competitors
to know the detail of how they go about their business. Commitment
to transparency in the world of lobbying is, and always will be,
a relative concept. What this suggests is that a degree of external
coercion will be required to achieve sufficient transparency across
the board. (Paragraph 43)
The Government is grateful to the Public Administration
Select Committee for its examination of lobbying in the UK, which
is the first Parliamentary inquiry on the subject since 1991.
It is right that the Government remains alert for
signs of improper influence over any aspect of our public life
and the Committee's Report provides a helpful opportunity to look
again at arrangements and to ensure that it has the right framework
in place to ensure confidence in the way outside interests interact
In responding to the Committee's recommendations,
it is first important to set out the context of this inquiry.
While the Committee's Report focuses mainly on the relationship
between the lobbying industry and Government, it must be remembered
that lobbying goes much wider than this. Lobbying is essentially
the activity of those in a democracy making representations to
government on issues of concern. The Government is committed to
protecting this right from improper use while at the same time
seeking to avoid any unnecessary regulation or restriction. As
well as being essential to the health of our democracy, its free
and proper exercise is an important feature of good government.
Those who work within government should have no monopoly on the
advice that Ministers use to make their decisions. Section 5.2
of the Ministerial Code states:
"Ministers have a duty to give fair consideration
and due weight to informed and impartial advice from civil servants,
as well as to other considerations and advice, in reaching policy
The more individuals and groups outside government
engage with the policy making process and the broader the base
of advice and evidence used to take decisions, the better those
decisions tend to be.
The Government believes that in the vast majority
of cases, lobbying takes place in a legitimate and beneficial
way. The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) gave the
issue detailed examination in 2000, and considered the evidence
again before submitting its views to the inquiry. In its memorandum
for this inquiry, the CSPL did not:
"detect any common link running through
these stories that suggests systemic current weakness
in public standards."
While the Government agrees with this assessment,
it nevertheless accepts that it needs to consider whether there
is more to do to provide the public with greater reassurance that
lobbying takes place within a framework which upholds high standards
of propriety and prevents improper influence or access. Clear
standards and rules of conduct are already in place for those
who are the target of lobbying - Ministers and civil servants.
It is now time to consider whether further strengthening is needed
particularly in relation to lobbyists themselves.
HOW ARE THESE AREAS CURRENTLY REGULATED?
11. The guiding principles of conduct may not
go far enough, but they are nonetheless a welcome and noteworthy
step towards consistency of approach, which is certainly needed
if self-regulation is to have any hope of meaningful success in
such a fragmented landscape. (Paragraph 52)
12. The APPC does not seem to attract sufficient
trust throughout the lobbying industry among its clients for it
to suggest with any authority that only its members should be
eligible to apply for public contracts. But the spirit of this
suggestion - the notion of a single self-regulating organisation
for multi-client public affairs consultancies - recognises that
the current situation allows consultancies to pick and choose
the rules that apply to them in a way that is incompatible with
self-regulation. (Paragraph 57)
13. A complaints system that was working would
have produced more than three cases in the last ten years, even
if the vast majority of lobbyists were operating ethically and
transparently. Reprimands and "severe" reprimands,
the only outcomes to have been seen in two cases decided against
members of any of the three umbrella groups (both within the CIPR),
are not of a kind that would give confidence to any outsider that
disciplinary processes are robust. The APPC's policy of expecting
complainants to be prepared to bear the costs of an investigation,
including the legal fees of the member complained against, is
unacceptable: it is unique as far as we are aware in any industry
complaints system and is an obvious barrier to potential complainants.
14. The three umbrella groups have an in-built
conflict of interest, in that they attempt to act both as trade
associations for the lobbyists themselves and as the regulators
of their members' behaviour. (Paragraph 65)
15. In the final analysis, what lobbying organisations
refer to as "self-regulation" appears to involve very
little regulation of any substance. (Paragraph 66)
17. What emerges from this survey is that while
the activities of lobbyists are scarcely regulated at all, there
are a variety of ways in which the lobbied are subject to behavioural
constraints and transparency requirements. These have developed
piecemeal, however, and with different times and issues in mind.
While reform in this area has been incremental, it
has nevertheless been consistent and coherent. The Government
has responded to developments, including very helpful examinations
of the issue by the CSPL. The Government accepted the recommendations
made by the CSPL in 1995 and 2000.
Central to the Government's approach has been the
principle of increasing transparency and upholding standards by
focussing rules and guidance on those who are the target of lobbying
activity - Ministers and civil servants. The CSPL endorsed this
approach in its 6th and 7th Reports, concluding
that the most effective way to police lobbying activity and uphold
standards was to focus constraints around those who are lobbied.
These rules are reinforced by wider initiatives to increase transparency
around the work of government in general, such as Freedom of Information.
The Government agrees that the Committee's Report
raises important issues about the current arrangements for voluntary
self-regulation. It is in the industry's best interests to look
again at these arrangements. The Government welcomes the constructive
start the industry has already made with the adoption of guiding
principles by the Association of Professional Political Consultants
(APPC), the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) and
the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the formation
of a Public Affairs Council (PAC) Working Party, which also includes
REGULATION OF LOBBYING ABROAD
18. There are a number of very general
conclusions that can be drawn from the experience of other jurisdictions:
- Lobbying can be regulated
far more extensively than is the case in the United Kingdom.
- Where lobbying activity is regulated, this
seems to be accepted as a fact of life by those concerned.
- In many countries, including most European
countries, lobbying activity is not explicitly regulated.
- The more restrictive regimes tend to respond
to an environment in which there is significant concern around
lobbying practices. That in the USA is a reaction to the close
association between lobbying and the financing of political activities.
19. The experience of other jurisdictions
suggests that there is no 'one-size-fits-all' or 'off-the-shelf'
solution to the regulation of lobbying and that early attempts
at solutions often need subsequent adjustment. We are convinced
that the system in the United Kingdom could be better tailored
than it is. In the current climate of public mistrust, voluntary
self-regulation of lobbying activity risks being little better
than the Emperor's new clothes. (Paragraph 130)
need to be adapted to different constitutional arrangements and
political cultures. In the case of the United Kingdom, where there
is a culture of discretion and where deals are traditionally done
behind closed doors, an element of external compulsion will be
needed to provide for meaningful transparency. This is shown by
the experience of the Freedom of Information agenda, which could
only be implemented through legislation. (Paragraph 131)
The Government agrees that there is a no 'one-size-fits-all'
or 'off-the-shelf' solution to the regulation of lobbying and
that early attempts at solutions often need subsequent adjustment.
In considering its response to the Committee's Report, the Government
has consulted a range of interested parties, including practitioners
and policy makers in the lobbying industry, the voluntary and
charitable sector and also the OECD.
THE RISKS OF REGULATION
21. The risk of regulation creating an exclusive
or two-tier process is one that clearly needs to be guarded against
- but we suspect that it is a risk that has been overstated.
22. The frankly cynical argument put to us by
some lobbyists is that their behaviour should not be regulated,
because if it were, it would encourage people to try to break
the rules. If this theory were followed to its logical conclusion,
there would be no regulation of any activity whatsoever. It is
true that external regulation (as opposed to culture change) tends
to encourage an adherence to the letter rather than the spirit
of the rules, but we see this as an argument for well-framed regulation,
rather than an argument against any regulation at all. (Paragraph
23. We again think that this risk (that regulation
could stifle input into the policy-making process) is over-stated.
The advantages of being able to lobby decision-makers on issues
of concern are so obvious, that only the most restrictive or onerous
kind of regulation could dissuade interested parties from making
their views known to Government. (Paragraph 141)
24. This (bureaucratic overload) is yet another
risk that we believe to be over-stated, though it is one that
clearly needs to be guarded against. If sensibly framed, regulation
would simply require those involved in the process of lobbying
to provide information which should already be in their hands.
The Government takes seriously the potential risks
of state regulation. The right of any individual or organisation
to approach government on an issue of concern is essential to
our democracy and important for good government. Regulation which
might inhibit the legitimate exercise of this right must be avoided.
The possible risks of mandatory registration have
been powerfully outlined by the CSPL. In its 6th Report,
the Committee concluded that:
"we believe that the amount of information
that could be made available through a register would not be proportionate
to the extra burden on all concerned of establishing and administering
The Committee then went on to say:
"such a system could give the erroneous
impression that only 'registered lobbyists' offer an effective
and proper route to MPs and Ministers".
The Government believes that effective voluntary
self-regulation must be the preferred approach. The Committee
has made a number of recommendations directed at the lobbying
industry, calling for statutory regulation only if the industry
fails to make credible improvements to voluntary self-regulation.
The Government agrees that the industry should be allowed the
opportunity to develop a system of voluntary self-regulation which
commands the confidence of those in and outside the industry.
In doing so, the Government will keep the issue under review
to ensure that progress is made in developing an effective system
of voluntary self-regulation.
PROPOSALS FOR REFORM
25. What is clear is that reform is necessary.
Lobbying the Government should, in a democracy, involve explicit
agreement about the terms on which this lobbying is conducted.
The result of doing nothing would be to increase public mistrust
of Government, and to solidify the impression that Government
listens to favoured groups - big business and party donors in
particular - with far more attention than it gives others. Measures
- To promote ethical behaviour
by lobbyists, with the prospect of sanctions if rules are broken.
- To ensure that the process of lobbying takes
place in as public a way as possible, subject to the maximum reasonable
degree of transparency, and
- To make it harder for politicians and public
servants to use the information and contacts they have built up
in office as an inducement to other potential employers. (Paragraph
26. We do not believe that transparency requirements
are ever likely to be enforceable through self-regulation. There
may, however, be a role for a self-regulatory organisation in
promoting ethical behaviour by those involved in lobbying. This
will depend, however, on whether lobbyists are genuinely willing
to be seen to be regulating themselves effectively. If they are,
there are a number of simple and obvious steps that could take
to improve the current situation:
i. Establish a single umbrella organisation
with both corporate and individual membership, in order to be
able to cover all those who are involved in lobbying as a substantial
part of their work.
ii. Ensure that people from outside the lobbying
world with a track record in regulation and in business ethics
are involved in running the organisation.
iii. Establish a clear separation between
promoting and representing those involved in lobbying activity,
and regulating that activity.
iv. Subject the standards of the members of
the organisation to more rigorous scrutiny, including external
validation. (Paragraph 145)
27. The public affairs industry should institute
an externally assessed validated standard - a kind of kite mark
- which its members should be required to meet. The standard
should integrate ethical issues, structural issues and service
quality issues, all of which are interdependent. (Paragraph 145)
28. Such a standard would only be worthwhile
if it were assessed and validated externally by a trusted body
outside the industry, and if companies and individuals did on
occasion fail the tests that were set. It would also only be
of value if companies knew that there was a business advantage
in achieving it or in employing people who had achieved it. (Paragraph
29. We would not expect all of those individuals
and groups involved in lobbying decision-makers to belong to this
body. We would, however, expect all of those involved in lobbying
decision-makers on a regular basis to perceive an overwhelming
advantage in membership. This would include campaigning organisations
and in-house corporate lobbyists as well as self-professed public
affairs consultancies. (Paragraph 147)
30. The body's effectiveness would be judged
in part by its readiness to sanction those who fail to meet its
criteria. If the perceived advantage of membership is strong
enough, suspension and expulsion will be powerful sanctions.
In some circumstances other sanctions, including the power to
fine and to 'name and shame' might also be needed. (Paragraph
31. For the lobbying industry to implement these
recommendations will require rivalries to be set aside in the
interests of genuine joint commitment to effective self-regulation.
This suggests an unprecedented unity of purpose. It may concentrate
minds to consider the alternative. We recommend that the Government
should allow six months following the publication of this Report
to see whether concrete and consistent progress can be made.
Failing this, we recommend that the Government should bring forward
a short bill to provide in statute for the kind of organisation
we have discussed above, to be funded by lobbyists. (Paragraph
The Government agrees that lobbying in a democracy
should take place on explicit and accepted terms. In relation
to Ministers and civil servants, these activities are governed
by the requirements of the Ministerial Code and the Civil
It is, of course, for members of the lobbying and
public affairs industry to respond on the detail of the Committee's
proposals to improve voluntary self-regulation. However, the Government
believes that these are helpful recommendations aimed at promoting
ethical practice and greater public confidence in lobbyists.
The Government is encouraged by the efforts now being
made by the industry to develop a single and credible regime of
voluntary self-regulation. The industry has continually improved
its disciplinary procedures over recent years, including through
the greater use of independent figures of standing to consider
and rule on possible breaches.
The Government urges the industry to embrace the
opportunity provided by the Committee's Report. If a system of
voluntary self-regulation can be made to work it would be a more
proportionate and effective means of promoting the transparency
and standards of conduct that should be expected of lobbyists
without the potential risks associated with statutory regulation.
32. While it would be of genuine interest to
be able to see how much money is being targeted at particular
lobbying campaigns, it is doubtful that it is possible to obtain
reliable information of this kind through a register. (Paragraph
33. It is important to start from first principles
when deciding what information needs to be included in a register
of lobbying activity in the United Kingdom and how this information
should be gathered. (Paragraph 167)
34. We can identify five key principles
for a register of lobbying activity:
a) it should be mandatory, in order to ensure
as complete as possible an overview of activity.
b) It should cover all those outside the public
sector involved in accessing and influencing public-sector decision
makers, with exceptions in only a very limited set of circumstances.
c) It should be managed and enforced by a
body independent both of Government and lobbyists.
d) It should include only information of genuine
potential value to the general public, to others who might wish
to lobby government, and to decision makers themselves.
e) It should include so far as possible information
which is relatively straightforward to provide - ideally, information
which would be collected for other purposes in any case. (Paragraph
35. In our view, to meet the last two of these
key principles, the following information would need to be provided:
a) the names of the individuals carrying out
lobbying activity and of any organisation employing or hiring
them, whether a consultancy, law firm, corporation or campaigning
b) In the case of multi-client companies,
the names of their clients.
c) Information about any public office previously
held by an individual lobbyist - essentially, excerpts from their
d) A list of the relevant interests of decision
makers within the public service (Ministers, senior civil servants
and senior public servants) and summaries of their career histories
outside the public service.
e) Information about contacts between lobbyists
and decision makers - essentially, diary records and minutes of
meetings. The aim would be to cover all meetings and conversations
between decision makers and outside interests. (Paragraph 176)
36. We recommend that all multi-client organisations
involved in public affairs should be required to publish in a
timely and transparent way the names of all clients whose interests
they represent to the government and other public bodies as well
as all clients to which they give advice on how their interests
would best be represented to the government and other public bodies.
41. Our proposal for a mandatory register involves
placing new obligations on individuals and organisations outside
the public sector: it will therefore necessarily involve legislation,
and cannot be implemented overnight. Experience from other jurisdictions
suggests, however, that such registers can be made to work relatively
swiftly and in the public interest, and that they do not act as
a barrier to free communication between Government and the electorate.
The Government agrees that any system of regulation,
whether it is voluntary self-regulation or statutory regulation,
requires a register of lobbyists to ensure that lobbying activity
is transparent. The Government agrees with most of the elements
for such a register outlined by the Committee.
However, the Government does not agree that such
a register should include the private interests of Ministers and
civil servants. This should not be a matter for a register of
lobbyists. Ultimately, major decisions are taken by Ministers.
Information about Ministers' relevant private interests is now
published as well as information in the Registers of Members'
and Peers' Interests. In addition, relevant interests' of departmental
board members are also available publicly. However, the Government
believes that the proposal for a Register of the private interests
of civil servants would be a disproportionate requirement that
would place a significant burden on departments and agencies while
adding very little to the regulation of lobbying. Both Ministers
and civil servants are already subject to clear standards of conduct
for dealing with lobbyists.
HOSPITALITY AND GIFTS
12. The Ministerial Code requires adjustment
to reflect the duty on Ministers to record within Government all
offers of hospitality which a reasonable person might consider
to have made to them in their capacity as Ministers. (Paragraph
14. We see no reason why the principle-based
approach to gifts and hospitality adopted by Departments could
not be developed into central guidance, incorporating the flexibility
required to allow offers from potential contractors and from foreign
diplomats to be treated differently. (Paragraph 86)
15. We suspect that information on gifts and
hospitality has not been kept across Government as rigorously
as it might. (Paragraph 87)
37. Gifts and hospitality above a token value
received by all Ministers and all civil servants should be recorded
and made publicly available. The Cabinet Office should provide
central direction to Departments and Agencies to ensure that consistent
processes are being followed. (Paragraph 82)
38. A first step towards greater transparency,
and one that could be achieved without legislation, would be to
publish routinely the information about ministerial and other
high-level official meetings with outside interest groups which
is currently produced only in response to specific FoI requests.
42. There are also steps that the Government
could take now and without legislation to make information about
its meetings with outside interest groups publicly available.
There is a perception that real government takes place behind
closed doors. This may be partly because of media portrayal or
innate distrust of those in power. But there seems to be a culture
of secrecy in some parts of government beyond that which is strictly
necessary, and beyond that seen in some other countries. Cultures
and attitudes need to change. Government should and could be more
open and more transparent about how it formulates policy and takes
decisions. (Paragraph 189)
39. Lunches are the kinds of contacts which
can be of as much potential concern as formal lobbying meetings
on the record with business or other interest groups. (Paragraph
40. We ask the Government to confirm that there
remains a requirement to record meetings on the record with business
or other interest groups. (Paragraph 187)
Both the Ministerial Code and the Civil
Service Code clearly set out the standards of conduct and
behaviour expected of Ministers and civil servants when it comes
to the acceptance of gifts and hospitality. Section 7.20 of the
Ministerial Code states:
"It is a well established and recognised
rule that no Minister should accept gifts, hospitality or services
from anyone which would, or might appear to, place him or her
under an obligation".
The standard set out in the Civil Service Code
is expressed in similar terms and there is further detailed advice
in departmental codes or guidance.
Ministers, as Members of Parliament, are already
required to register the hospitality they accept over the Parliamentary
threshold in the Register of Members' Interests or the Register
of Peers' Interests. The Government accepts there would be merit
in publishing details of hospitality received by Ministers in
a ministerial capacity. It already does this in relation to gifts
valued at more than £140 and will now do so in relation to
hospitality received. Information will be published on-line by
departments on a quarterly basis with effect from 1 October 2009.
In February 2009, for the first time ever, the Government
published a list of hospitality received by Senior Civil Servants
at departmental board level. In response to the Committee's recommendation,
the Government agrees to extend the list's coverage to include
hospitality received by all Senior Civil Servants at Director
General level and above. This information will be published by
departments on a quarterly basis and on-line. In addition, the
list will also include expenses received by senior civil servants
at Director General and above.
The Government agrees that it would be helpful for
Departments and Agencies to be issued with guidance which sets
out best practice for compliance with the principles based approach
for the receipt of gifts and hospitality, as currently set out
in the Civil Service Code and the Civil Service Management
Code. This guidance has now been circulated to departments
and a copy is submitted with this response at Annex A.
The Freedom of Information (FoI) Act has already
achieved a great deal in opening up the work of government. It
has given the public greater access to details of the interaction
between government and outside interests. The Government agrees
that as a further step towards greater transparency, department's
will now publish on-line on a quarterly basis information about
ministerial meetings with outside interest groups. This will be
effective from 1 October 2009.
However, while all meetings are recorded, publishing
information in respect of other high-level official meetings would
involve collating a huge amount of information and divert significant
resources within departments.
Government generally is more open and inclusive in
the way it develops policy and takes decisions. Consultation is
now a well established part of the policy making process. There
is central guidance to help departments conduct helpful and meaningful
consultation exercises and the principles of good consultation
are set out in the Government's Code of Practice on Consultation.
The Government confirms that it is still a requirement
for private offices to record meetings between Ministers and any
external individuals or organisations. This requirement is clearly
expressed in the Guidance on the Management of Private Office
Papers, National Archives guidance observed by all departments
and published on The National Archives website.
LIST OF MINISTERIAL INTERESTS
13. We welcome the proposal to publish a statement
of Ministers' interests. We do not think, however, that an annual
list is the best solution. Much of the information it contained
might quickly become historic: even the names of some of the Ministers.
We would prefer to see an outline register, which could be kept
regularly updated. In our view, the register should be inclusive,
not exclusive. It is not always clear in what capacity a Minister
is acting: as a Minister, a Member of Parliament, a party politician,
or a private individual. If in doubt, an interest should be included.
The test needs to be whether a reasonable person could consider
that an interest is relevant. (Paragraph 84)
The Government believes that publication of an annual
statement of Ministers' relevant interests is an important step
forward which has already increased transparency and confidence
in the application of rules designed to prevent conflicts of interest.
The interests included are those which are, or could reasonably
be perceived to be directly relevant to Ministers' public duties.
The List of Ministers' Interests will now be updated and
published, on-line, every six months.
BUSINESS APPOINTMENT RULES / ADVISORY COMMITTEE
16. Part of the appeal of employing former
Ministers is the perception accurate or not - that they will be
able to offer access across government. This is particularly
so when their party remains in government. (Paragraph 110)
43. There is a continuing need for a strong
Advisory Committee to instil confidence both in the public and
in those whose careers they can affect, that processes are followed
and decisions taken both robustly and fairly. There would be
benefit to having an Advisory Committee that was more representative
of society at large. Under these circumstances, the Government
should consider providing some remuneration to members of the
Advisory Committee, and should seek a wider field of applicants
than might have been the case in the past. (Paragraph 192)
44. We hope that, when they are appointed,
the new chairman and members will undertake a thorough review
of the Advisory Committee's internal processes, to ensure that
their advice, particularly on lobbying, is as unambiguous as possible
in its meaning, and to provide enough transparency to allow the
public and media the opportunity to assess whether or not this
advice has been followed. (Paragraph 193)
45. The new Advisory Committee also needs
to be given the opportunity to review the Business Appointment
Rules themselves. (Paragraph 194)
46. We are strongly concerned that, with the
rules as loosely and as variously interpreted as they currently
are, former Ministers in particular appear to be able to use with
impunity contacts they built up as public servants to further
a private interest. We think that this is unacceptable, particularly
when they continue to be paid from the public purse as sitting
Members of Parliament. The rules need to reflect this. (Paragraph
47. There are limits to how far this can be
taken. It would not be desirable or in all probability legally
possible to prevent a former health Minister from taking up a
post elsewhere which took advantage of their expertise in health
issues. What we would like to ensure, however, is that consistent
rules are strictly applied so that former Ministers and other
public servants are effectively prevented for an extended period
of several years from using their contacts and sensitive information
that they acquired in public office to further their own and others'
The Government would first like to put on record
its gratitude to the members of the Advisory Committee on Business
Appointments (ACoBA) for the important contribution they make
to the maintenance of high standards in this area of public life,
and in particular, in the case of the recently retired Members
of the Committee, for their agreement to the Government's request
to serve beyond the end of their terms of appointment pending
the refreshment of the Committee membership.
The Government agrees that there is a continuing
need for a strong ACoBA to reassure the public that there are
no reasonable grounds for criticism about the propriety of appointments
taken up by Ministers and Crown Servants when they leave public
office. The Government believes the principles set out for this
purpose in the Guidelines for former Ministers and the Rules
for Crown servants remain the right ones, and that in the
many cases on which it has advised within this framework the Advisory
Committee has done its job very effectively. The Committee itself
expressed this view in its report on the Business Appointment
Rules, where the Committee concluded that there would be little
benefit in changing the Advisory Committee's composition or its
way of working (Conclusion and recommendation 10, 6th
Report of Session 2006-07).
The recent refreshment of the Advisory Committee's
membership provides an opportunity to recruit members from a wider
field of candidates, subject to ensuring the necessary breadth
and depth of expertise and experience to command confidence in
the Committee's advice. The Government has recently appointed
The Rt Hon Lord Lang of Monkton DL, Dame Juliet Wheldon DCB QC,
The Rt Hon Lord Macdonald of Tradeston CBE, The Lord Dholakia
OBE DL, Sir Colin Budd KCMG and, General The Lord Walker of Aldringham
GCB CMG CBE DL. Lord Lang is currently acting as interim Chairman
which is subject to the Public Administration Select Committee
undertaking a pre-appointment hearing.
The Advisory Committee has to date, carried out its
sometimes onerous work without payment, and the Government agrees
it would now be appropriate to introduce some form of remuneration
for the new Advisory Committee in recognition of the time it will
need to commit to its work and to bring it in line with other
independent advisory bodies, such as the House of Lords Appointments
Commission. This will take the form of an honorarium.
The Government does not agree with the general assertion
that former Ministers in particular are able to use improperly
and with impunity contacts they have built up while in office.
The Government agrees with the Committee that it would not be
desirable to prevent former Ministers, or Crown servants, making
use of their expertise once they leave office. It is in the country's
interests that they should be able to use their skills and experience
in work outside Government provided there is no reasonable cause
for concern about propriety when they take up such appointments.
Nevertheless, the Government agrees that the Guidelines for
former Ministers and the Rules for Crown servants (including
the associated Guidance to Departments) need revision so as to
bring them up-to-date and to ensure that they can be interpreted
as unambiguously as possible. The Advisory Committee is an independent
body, but the Government has no doubt that the new membership
will wish to consider its procedures in the light of the Government's
revised regulations on which it will consult the Advisory Committee
in advance of publication.
The Government acknowledges the practical limitations,
to which the Committee has drawn attention, in producing a fully
comprehensive yet clear and unambiguous definition of lobbying.
Any attempt to provide an exhaustive description would not be
effective in defining precisely for regulatory purposes the kinds
of activities that would subject a former Minister or Crown servant
to restriction or a ban. Nevertheless, the Government agrees
that the issue of lobbying needs to be addressed in the regulations
that form the basis on which the Advisory Committee gives its
advice, and will do so in the revision of them which it will undertake
in consultation with the Advisory Committee.
The Government notes the Committee's view on the
acceptability of former Ministers using their contacts to further
a private interest while they continue to be paid as sitting Members
of Parliament. This is a matter for Parliament itself to consider.
The Standards and Privileges Committee in the House of Commons
and the Sub-Committee on Lords Interests in the House of Lords
are able to investigate and rule on the conduct of MPs and Peers
respectively. The Committee on Standards in Public Life is currently
undertaking an inquiry into MPs' allowances, including the issue
of MPs holding second jobs.
48. Government needs to be aware of the scale
of transfer into (and indeed from) specific businesses and sectors,
so as to be able to take measures against the capture of the public
interest by the interests of those businesses or that sector.
Departments are aware of the levels of transfer into
specific businesses and sectors, and where there might appear
to be a problem, this would be investigated. However, the level
of transfer between government and particular sectors does not
of itself mean there is a problem. Indeed the Government is happy
to see interchange as a common feature of public sector life.
Provided that standards of propriety are properly observed, society
benefits from the exchange of ideas and approaches and interchange
helps to promote a more open culture in government. What matters
is that the Business Appointment Rules are appropriately and effectively
applied in each individual case to prevent improper personal gain
or any business obtaining unfair advantage. The Advisory Committee
also assesses samples of applications referred to the Committee's
secretariat (who act on behalf of the Cabinet Office), in order
to ensure consistency and effectiveness in advice given to departments.