The anti-corruption group Transparency International UK argues that the rules surrounding MPs lobbying on behalf of private business are “not fit for purpose”, adding that there is a “significant risk of conflicts of interest” in the current status quo.
The group makes a series of recommendations in its report, including: “As is the case in the House of Lords, the Scottish parliament and the Welsh Assembly, MPs [are] to be prohibited from undertaking any paid advisory work relating to the affairs of parliament.”
The report includes details of £3.4m paid to 73 MPs last year alone for external advisory roles. Arguing that the “public is still in the dark about who is trying to influence UK politics”, the anti-corruption organisation also reports that despite recent efforts to make available information about lobbying practices, just four per cent of lobbyists are covered by the government’s new lobbying register.
Commenting on the report, Transparency International UK’s head of advocacy and research, Nick Maxwell, said: “Lobbyists attempt to influence decisions that affect billions of pounds of public spending and millions of lives across the UK.
“Greater transparency about lobbying can help build confidence that the government is working in the interests of citizens, rather than lobbyists.”
Transparency International UK makes a total of 38 recommendations for changes to legislation to increase lobbying transparency, including a statutory register of lobbyists to include both in-house and consultants and more accurate, public information about meetings between MPs and lobbyists, as well as the establishment of an independent body to be set up to monitor compliance with lobbying rules.
The report comes the week after former foreign secretaries Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw were cleared of misconduct over “cash for access” allegations.