The PRCA, CIPR and APPC have joined forces and called for rules to be tightened to prevent MPs from working as paid lobbyists. This follows Labour MP Barry Sheerman’s recent inclusion in the Register of Consultant Lobbyists.
Sheerman had previously stated that Policy Connect, which facilitates meetings between businesses and ministers, was ‘the antidote to lobbyists’ and that he had registered reluctantly.
Speaking to journalists, Paul Beckford, public affairs chair at the CIPR, said: ‘It is hard to see how an MP can fall within the remit of the statutory lobbying register and at the same time comply with the MP’s Code of Conduct, which says “no Member shall act as a paid advocate in any proceeding of the House”.’
A joint letter to Kathryn Hudson, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, from the PRCA and APPC follows a similar line and states: ‘It is our view that no MP should work as both a legislator and paid consultant lobbyist.’
The letter continues: ‘We have long sought to promote high ethical standards and the importance of transparency for UK lobbyists, but perceptions of a ‘cosy’ relationship between the two, or worse still a legislator actually acting as a lobbyist diminishes the public trust in democracy.’
The PRCA and APPC are also keen to highlight that even though Sheerman has decided to give his earnings from his role at Policy Connect to good causes, this does not alter the fact that he has been paid in the first place.
The letter concludes by stating: ‘Changes to the MP’s Code of Conduct preventing members carrying out any work which would necessitate compliance with the Register of Consultant Lobbyists seem to us fundamental to any changes to the Code.’