by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
1. In addition to the Register
of Members' Interests, three other Registers are maintained under
the authority of a resolution of the House of 17 December 1985.
These Registers are not published, or open to public inspection,
but they are available in the Library for personal inspection
2. Those holding full passes
to the Palace of Westminster as journalists accredited to the
Parliamentary press gallery and lobby are required to register
both the employment for which they receive the pass and any other
paid occupation or employment where their privileged access to
Parliament may be relevant.
3. Those holding full passes
as Members' secretaries or research assistants are required to
register any relevant gainful occupation other than that for which
the pass was issued. An occupation is "relevant" for
this purpose if it might reasonably be thought to be advantaged
in any way by access to the parliamentary buildings and their
services and facilities. Members' staff are also required to
register visits, gifts or other benefits which they receive and
which come within the definitions of the Register of Members'
ALL PARTY AND
4. Commons officers of All
Party and Parliamentary Groups whose membership is open to Members
of either House are required to register the names of the officers
of the Group and the source and extent of any benefits, financial
or in kind, which they (the Groups) may enjoy. These registrable
benefits include the provision of staff help by outside organisations
or individuals. In such cases it is also necessary to register
any other gainful occupation which those staff may have.
5. These arrangements followed
proposals made in the First Report of the Select Committee on
Members' Interests, Session 1984-85. Against the background of
a substantial increase in organised lobbying, the Committee took
the view that a Member who is approached on any matter should
be able to ascertain the nature of the approach and the standing
of the person making it; and that the House should know what use
is made of its facilities by those to whom it afforded privileged
access. The Committee considered the case for a Register of Parliamentary
Lobbyists but rejected it on the grounds that it would be impossible
to enforce and would only confer advantages to those included
6. In making the three Registers
available to Members but not to the public, the Committee sought
to ensure that the relevant interests of those with privileged
access should be more readily known to Members who may be in contact
with them in the course of their Parliamentary duties, without
intruding unnecessarily on the proper privacy of those concerned.
REVIEW OF PRESENT
7. The Select Committee on
Members' Interests on several occasions considered the desirability
of establishing a Register of Lobbyists, and at first concluded
that the difficulties of defining a lobbyist for this purpose
would be insuperable. Anyone can lobby Parliament on his own
account or on behalf of another. There are no essential professional
qualifications and no statutory rules of conduct.
8. In their Third Report
of Session 1990-91 they eventually recommended, though not unanimously,
that the House should take a decision in principle to establish
a Register of `Professional Lobbyists', a term for which they
attempted to draw up a workable definition. When the Report was
debated, however, the House did not support this recommendation,
preferring to rely on self-regulation by the industry itself.
9. A number of representative
bodies from the industry have set up registers of professional
lobbyists and launched codes of conduct - namely the Association
of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), the Institute of
Public Relations (IPR) and the Public Relations Consultants Association
(PRCA). The organisations would prefer Parliament to vet all
third party advisers but, even in the absence of such official
regulation, the position would seem to be rather more satisfactory
now than when it was last considered. The Nolan Committee did
not favour an official register and it is doubtful whether this
is a profitable subject for further enquiry at this stage.
10. There is, however, one
aspect of the `Other Registers' which is worth re-examination
i.e. the question of whether they should be published, or at least
made available for public inspection.
11. The argument against
publication in the past has been that this would be an unwarranted
intrusion on the privacy of non-elected `outsiders'. But in practice
this objective has not been achieved because, on several occasions,
Members have copied the Registers and have made them available
for publication in the Press. Somewhat perversely, this probably
gave them greater prominence than would have been achieved by
normal publication - and in a way which reflected no credit on
12. Apart from this negative
reason, there are, I think, a number of positive arguments for
recommending that the Registers should at least be available for
(1) Although the Registers
provide information to Members about potential areas of
undue influence, that information is not necessarily available
to the public. For example, if a public relations company
(or charity) provides administrative or research assistance to
an individual Member, that will appear in the Register of Members'
Interests; but if the same body provides assistance to an All
Party or Parliamentary Group chaired by the same Member, that
information would currently be available only to Members.
(2) Given the move towards
greater openness in public affairs, information should not be
withheld, without good reason.
(3) There is some evidence
of laxity in keeping up-to-date the entries in the `Other Registers'.
For example a recent exercise to update the Register of Parliamentary
Journalists flushed out many changes which should have been notified
earlier. If the Registers were available for public inspection
this would provide an additional discipline in that others could
draw attention to apparent lapses.
13. This, of course, raises
the question of what action should be taken if those required
to register are found to be in breach of the rules. My own feeling
is that this is not something for which an elaborate complaints
procedure would be warranted. In the case of an apparent breach
it should be sufficient for my office to bring the matter to the
attention of the person concerned and ask for it to be rectified.
In the last resort we could liaise with the Serjeant at Arms
to consider whether a Commons pass (which is granted as a privilege)
should be withdrawn.
14. For the reasons in paragraph
11 above, I believe there is a good case for greater openness.
The subject matter is probably not of sufficient interest to
warrant a special publication but a sensible first step would
be to make the Registers open to public inspection.
15. If the Committee were
minded to recommend this change, it would require the approval
of the House.