Sir John Butterfill, Mr Stephen Byers, Ms Patricia Hewitt, Mr Geoff Hoon, Mr Richard Caborn and Mr Adam Ingram - Standards and Privileges Committee Contents

The need for a wider review

70. The Commissioner's memorandum concludes with some observations about the adequacy of the House's rules on lobbying by MPs and former MPs. As the Commissioner has pointed out, the inquiry he has carried out into allegations about the conduct of six individuals does not of itself provide sufficient basis for specific recommendations for changes to the rules.[90] The question he has invited us to consider is whether there should be a wider review of the content and operation of the rules, which could then form the basis of recommendations for change.[91]

Paid advocacy rule

71. The paid advocacy rule was introduced in 1995 and amended in 2002. The rule prohibits Members from being paid for participating in Parliamentary proceedings or lobbying Ministers or officials, if by their participation or lobbying they would be seeking to confer benefit exclusively on the body or individual outside Parliament which is or may in the future be paying them.[92]

72. The problem which the Commissioner has identified is that the relaxation of the rule in 2002, which came about in response to a recommendation of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, has provided Members with a defence that the change or action which they are advocating would benefit, not just the person or body which is paying them, but a wider business sector, to which that person or body belongs.[93] The Commissioner suggests that it would be desirable to find a way of avoiding the risk of giving the impression that Members can advocate a policy or lobby a Minister or officials for personal benefit, while still enabling them fully to represent their constituents and to speak freely on public policy issues.

Activities of former Members

73. The Commissioner observes that:

    This inquiry has shown that, once a Member of Parliament has left the House, there is nothing to prevent them using contacts which they have developed as Members of Parliament in lobbying Ministers or civil servants, including paid advocacy in the exclusive support of those who are paying them.[94]

He points out that there is no equivalent for former Members of the mechanism which limits the freedom of former Ministers to take up paid employment.[95] The Commissioner recognises that it is human nature for former Members to wish to maintain contacts they have made while working in Parliament, including with Members, Ministers and officials. He accepts that lobbying is a necessary part of the Parliamentary process. The Commissioner does not advocate imposing such restrictions on former Members, but he is concerned about former Members making direct contact with former colleagues who are still in Parliament, with Ministers or with civil servants on behalf of an employer which is paying them.[96]

Meetings with officials

74. As noted above, the terms in which the present advocacy rule is expressed have caused us some concern. Part of Mr Caborn's attempt to explain his failure to declare a relevant interest when he met the Chairman of a health authority was that the rule on declaration applies in terms only to Ministers and Crown servants and that the reference in the Guide to "public officials" needs to be read in that light.[97]

75. Although we have not accepted that his literal interpretation of the rule excuses Mr Caborn's failure to declare his interest, we do feel that it would be helpful if the rule and associated guidance were clarified and, in due course, amended. The precise terms of an amendment to the rule will require careful consideration. Meanwhile, we suggest that Members would be well advised to interpret the advocacy rule as potentially applying to their transactions or communications with any public official.


76. We agree with the Commissioner that there is a strong case for a review of the rules relating to lobbying. Such a review could consider the three specific points identified above, which have arisen from his inquiry into the conduct of six former Members. We intend that such a review will be carried out as soon as time permits.

90   Appendix 1, paragraph 729 Back

91   Appendix 1, paragraph 730 Back

92   Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members, 2009, paragraphs 90, 95 and 96 Back

93   Appendix 1, paragraph 733 Back

94   Appendix 1, paragraph 734 Back

95   Appendix 1, paragraph 735 Back

96   Appendix 1, paragraph 736 Back

97   Appendix 2 Back

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