Government pledges lobbying crackdown as scandal engulfs Westminster

THE GOVERNMENT has pledged to bring forward new rules governing lobbying following a weekend where three peers and one MP were forced to step aside amid allegations they were seeking to profit from their position.

Cabinet office minister Francis Maude said the government could introduce a statutory register of lobbyists by the end of the year, following a Sunday Times sting which allegedly showed members of the House of Lords offering to carry out parliamentary work on behalf of a green energy company in return for money.

Yesterday Labour peers Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and Lord Cunningham were suspended, while the Ulster Unionist Lord Laird resigned his party whip pending an investigation.

“We are going to do this [lobbying register],” Maude told the BBC’s Sunday Politics. “We need finally to resolve the issues about scope and so on and then we’ll get on with it.”

In 2010 David Cameron warned lobbying was “the next big scandal waiting to happen” and said the cosy relationship between politicians and business “has tainted our politics for too long”. But his government has so far failed to introduce legislation to deal with the industry.

On Friday Patrick Mercer MP resigned from the Conservatives after being filmed in a separate Daily Telegraph/BBC report offering to table questions relating to Fiji in return for money. The footage will be shown on tonight’s Panorama but Mercer intends to stay as an independent MP until the 2015 general election to avoid triggering a by-election in the Tory safe seat of Newark. Yesterday Maude also suggested voters could be given the legal right to recall MPs who are found to have committed “serious wrongdoing”.