Ian Paisley Contents

Appendix 3: Note by the Registrar of Members’ Financial Interests: The advocacy rule as it was in 2014, and foreign visits

1.This note alerts the Committee to the way the Commissioner has interpreted the advocacy rule contained within the 2009 Guide to the Rules. The Commissioner has followed the customary interpretation by her predecessors and other staff in this office. The interpretation is relevant to this case, which concerns the rules which applied to Members in 2014. (From the 2015 election, a revised rule has applied.)

The advocacy rule

2.The advocacy rule exists to stop MPs lobbying in return for money or other benefits. It restricts MPs who have accepted gifts, hospitality, donations or other payments of a level which requires registration or declaration.59 In 2014, if an MP (or their spouse or close relative) was receiving, expected to receive or had received a benefit of this sort, he or she was forbidden to lobby in favour of something which would amount to an exclusive benefit for the donor. This restriction lasted for 12 months after the benefit was received.

Overseas visits

3.An overseas visit funded by someone else is normally something which has to be registered. Post 2015, an MP who had received such a visit would not be able to lobby for something which would prove an exclusive financial benefit for a person or organisation who had funded that visit. However, in the 2009 Guide to the Rules (see extract attached):

Contemporaneous advice from the Commissioner’s office

4.In 2014 it was customary for the Commissioner’s office, if asked to advise on foreign visits, to point MPs towards paragraph 100(d) rather than paragraph 99(7). In other words MPs were advised that they were permitted to speak about matters they had discovered during their visit so long as they did not advocate any measure for the exclusive benefit of the person or organisation which had hosted them. This reading of the rules is supported by the Fifth Report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges of 2000–01, which recommended the addition of paragraph 99(7).60

5.Neither paragraph 100 nor paragraph 97(d) of the 2009 Guide to the Rules refer explicitly to benefits which are given to a MP’s spouse or close relative. The wider interpretation of paragraph 99(7) (which the Commissioner’s office does not support) would allow MPs to lobby in favour of someone who had hosted a fact finding visit for them. However it would be stretching matters too far if it were interpreted as allowing an MP to lobby in favour of someone who had provided travel and/or hospitality for his or her spouse and relatives.

Conclusion

6.The Committee is invited to note this paper.

Note by the Registrar of Members’ Financial Interests, July 2018


59 Over £660 in 2014

60 Committee on Standards and Privileges, Fifth Report of 2000–1; https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200001/cmselect/cmstnprv/267/26702.htm




Published: 18 July 2018