PARLIAMENTARY authorities last night suspended 80 passes giving access to the Palace of Westminster amid fears they could have wrongly been issued to lobbyists.
The House of Commons Commission gave the order as the growing scandal over companies paying for access to MPs and peers forced the government to say it would introduce legislation for a statutory register of lobbyists “within the next few months”.
But in an unexpected move the coalition said the proposed law will also introduce measures that restrict the activities of trade unions. They will be forced to conduct an independently verified audit of their membership figures on an annual basis, in addition to requiring them to invoice the total cost of providing campaigning assistance to political parties.
This move has infuriated Labour, who benefit from the overwhelming majority of trade union political assistance. The party has traditionally relied on unions to print campaign leaflets but will now be required to include some union overheads within its spending limit.
The desire to audit union membership follows allegations that non-members have voted in some strike ballots. “This seems to be a shabby and panicked response by David Cameron to divert attention from damaging headlines hitting the Conservative Party,” a Labour source said. The scandal began after two newspaper strings where three peers and one MP were secretly filmed allegedly offering to carry out parliamentary work in return for money.