The Code of Conduct - House of Commons Contents

3. Lobbying for Reward or Consideration

The 1947, 1995, and 2002 Resolutions

89. On 6 November 1995[33] the House agreed to the following Resolution relating to lobbying for reward or consideration:
"It is inconsistent with the dignity of the House, with the duty of a Member to his constituents, and with the maintenance of the privilege of freedom of speech, for any Member of this House to enter into any contractual agreement with an outside body, controlling or limiting the Member's complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament or stipulating that he shall act in any way as the representative of such outside body in regard to any matters to be transacted in Parliament; the duty of a Member being to his constituents and to the country as a whole, rather than to any particular section thereof: and that in particular no Members of the House shall, in consideration of any remuneration, fee, payment, or reward or benefit in kind, direct or indirect, which the Member or any member of his or her family has received is receiving or expects to receive—

(i)  Advocate or initiate any cause or matter on behalf of any outside body or individual, or

(ii)  urge any other Member of either House of Parliament, including Ministers, to do so,

by means of any speech, Question, Motion, introduction of a Bill or Amendment to a Motion or a Bill or any approach, whether oral or in writing, to Ministers or servants of the Crown."

(Resolution of the House of 15 July 1947, amended on 6 November 1995 and on 14 May 2002)

90. This Resolution prohibits paid advocacy. It is wholly incompatible with the rule that any Member should take payment for speaking in the House. Nor may a Member, for payment, vote, ask a Parliamentary Question, table a Motion, introduce a Bill or table or move an Amendment to a Motion or Bill or urge colleagues or Ministers to do so.[34]

91. The Resolution does not prevent a Member from holding a remunerated outside interest as a director, consultant, or adviser, or in any other capacity, whether or not such interests are related to membership of the House. Nor does it prevent a Member from being sponsored by a trade union or any other organisation, or holding any other registrable interest, or from receiving hospitality in the course of his or her parliamentary duties whether in the United Kingdom or abroad.[35] However, if a financial interest is required to be registered in the Register of Members' Financial Interests, or declared in debate, it falls within the scope of the ban on lobbying for reward or consideration.

92. The Resolution in its current form extends and reinforces an earlier Resolution of the House in 1947 that a Member may not enter into any contractual arrangement which fetters the Member's complete independence in Parliament by any undertaking to press some particular point of view on behalf of an outside interest.[36] Nor, by virtue of the same Resolution, may an outside body (or person) use any contractual arrangement with a Member of Parliament as an instrument by which it controls, or seeks to control, his or her conduct in Parliament, or to punish that Member for any parliamentary action.[37]

93. The rule regarding lobbying for reward or consideration applies equally in the case of benefits received by family members by blood or by marriage or a relationship equivalent to marriage. [38]

94. In addition to the requirements of the ban on lobbying for reward or consideration, Members should also bear in mind the long established convention that interests which are wholly personal and particular to the Member, and which may arise from a profession or occupation outside the House, ought not to be pursued by the Member in proceedings in Parliament.


95. The Resolution was modified in 2002 to reflect recommendations made by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in 2000 in the light of evidence it had received that the arrangements put in place in 1995, particularly those relating to initiation of proceedings, were operating unduly harshly and were unnecessarily inhibiting the ability of Members to become well informed and to use their expertise and experience effectively. The aim of the recommended changes, while retaining the ban on 'paid advocacy' and on seeking to confer benefits exclusively on a particular individual or body, was a relaxation of the restrictions on initiation to enable a Member with a personal interest to initiate proceedings on the same basis as that on which they were already allowed to participate.[39]

96. The Committee on Standards and Privileges has provided the following Guidelines to assist Members in applying the rule:

1. Parliamentary proceedings: When a Member is taking part in any parliamentary proceeding or making any approach to a Minister or servant of the Crown, advocacy is prohibited which seeks to confer benefit exclusively upon a body (or individual) outside Parliament, from which the Member has received, is receiving, or expects to receive a financial benefit, or upon any registrable client of such a body (or individual). Otherwise a Member may speak freely on matters which relate to the affairs and interests of a body (or individual) from which he or she receives a financial benefit, provided the benefit is properly registered and declared.

2. Constituency interests: Irrespective of any relevant interest which the Member is required to register or declare, he or she may pursue any constituency interest in any proceeding of the House or any approach to a Minister or servant of the Crown, except that:

—  where the Member has a financial relationship with a company in the Member's constituency the guidelines above relating to parliamentary proceedings shall apply;

—  where the Member is an adviser to a trade association, or to a professional (or other representative) body, the Member should avoid using a constituency interest as the means by which to raise any matter which the Member would otherwise be unable to pursue.[40]

97. The Committee on Standards and Privileges has made it clear that it would regard it as a very serious breach of the rules if a Member failed to register or declare an interest which was relevant to a proceeding he or she had initiated. Similar considerations would apply in the case of approaches to Ministers and others.[41]

98. "Initiating a parliamentary proceeding" includes:

—  presenting a Bill;

—  presenting a Petition;

—  tabling and asking a Parliamentary Question;

—  asking a supplementary question to one's own Question;

—  initiating, or seeking to initiate an adjournment (or other) debate;

—  tabling or moving any Motion (e.g. an "Early Day Motion" a Motion for leave to introduce a Bill under the "Ten Minute Rule" or a Motion "blocking" a Private Bill;

—  tabling or moving an Amendment to a Bill;

—  proposing a draft Report, or moving an Amendment to a draft Report, in a Select Committee;

—  giving any written notice, or adding a name to such notice, or making an application for and introducing a daily adjournment debate, or an emergency debate.


99. The Committee on Standards and Privileges has also agreed to the following parameters to the operation of the rule:

1)  Registrable interests: The ban on lobbying for reward or consideration is to apply with equal effect to any registrable or declarable financial benefit irrespective of the source of that benefit (ie no distinction is drawn between financial benefits received from a company, a representative organisation, a charity, a foreign government or any other source). Similarly, no distinction should be drawn in the application of the advocacy rule to different categories of registrable or declarable benefit[42] (except for the provision below relating to ballot bills, to overseas visits, and to membership of other elected bodies). Non-financial interests registered by Members do not fall within the scope of the Resolution agreed by the House on 6th November 1995 and the rule does not apply to them.

2)  Past, present, and future benefits: Unlike the Register, which lists current benefits, or benefits received in the immediate past, the Resolution on lobbying of 6 November 1995 also refers, as does the rule on declaration, to past and expected future benefits and to indirect benefits. It is difficult to contemplate circumstances where any benefit received some time in the past, particularly an interest which has not been current in the past twelve months could be sufficiently relevant to be taken into account under the rule (see (4) below). Expected future interests, on the other hand, may be more significant. For example, Members expecting to derive direct financial benefit from particular legislation should, as well as declaring the interest in debate as appropriate, not seek to move Amendments to advance the expected future interest. The same consideration applies to other proceedings.

3)  Continuing benefits: Continuing benefits, ie directorships, other employment, and sponsorship, can be divested to release a Member with immediate effect from the restrictions imposed by the rule, providing that the benefit is disposed of and there is no expectation of renewal.

4)  "One-off" benefits: The rule applies to "one-off" registrable benefits, both visits and gifts, from the day upon which the interest was acquired until one year after it is registered.

5)  Family benefits: The rule includes relevant payments to a Member's family, but any payment to a member of the family of any Member which arises out of the family member's own occupation is not regarded as a benefit for the purposes of the Resolution,[43] although it may be declarable.

6)  Ballot Bills: Private Members successful in the Ballot for Bills are not prevented from introducing and proceeding with a Bill by reason of the fact that they receive free or subsidised assistance from an organisation connected with the purposes of the Bill provided the Member had no pre-existing financial relationship with the organisation which is registered, or is required to be registered.

7)  Overseas Visits: Although, except as set out in paragraph 47, overseas visits must be registered and declared, such visits shall not be taken into account when applying the rule.

8)  Membership of other elected bodies: Membership of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the European Parliament and local authorities in the United Kingdom shall not be taken into account when applying the rule.

9)  Ministers: The restrictions imposed by the rule do not apply to Ministers when acting in the House as Ministers.

100. The financial interests of Members are extremely varied, as the Register demonstrates. Each Member will need to apply the rule and the Guidelines to his or her particular circumstances. When in doubt, Members will be able to seek the advice of the Registrar, the Commissioner, or the Committee on Standards and Privileges. However, some illustrative examples of the application of the Guidelines may be of value:—

a) A Member who is director of a company may not seek particular preference for that company (eg tax relief, subsidies, restriction of competition) in any proceeding of the House or any approach to Ministers or officials.

b) In the case of trade associations, staff associations, professional bodies, charities (or any similar representative organisation):

ii)  Membership alone of any representative organisation does not entail any restrictions under the rule.

iii)  A Member who is, for example, a remunerated adviser:

—  may not advocate measures for the exclusive benefit of that organisation; nor speak or act in support of a campaign exclusively for the benefit of the representative organisation or its membership (eg a campaign for special tax relief, or for enhanced pay and numbers);

—  may speak or act in support of a campaign which is of particular interest to the representative organisation (eg in the case of an animal welfare organisation, a campaign to prohibit the importation of animal fur, or prohibit blood sports; in the case of a charity for cancer research, a campaign for the prohibition of smoking).

c) When a Member has a problem involving a company within his or her constituency the Member may take any parliamentary action to resolve that problem, even though he or she may hold a remunerated position with a body representing the relevant sector of the industry regionally or nationally, or with another company outside the constituency in the same industrial sector. Similarly a Member who has a remunerated position with a representative association is not restricted in any way in taking up the case of a constituent who is a member of that association, or is employed by a member of that association. The only circumstances when the Member's actions are restricted are when the Member has a registrable interest with the company concerned, in which case the guidelines provide that the Member forfeits the special position he or she has as a constituency Member.

d) Members are reminded that when accepting foreign visits they should be mindful of the reputation of the House. However, the knowledge obtained by Members on such visits can often be of value to the House as a whole. While it is desirable that Members should be able to use that knowledge in debate in the House there is a point at which promoting the interests, of eg a foreign Government from which hospitality has been received, crosses the line between informed comment and lobbying. Members may not, for example, advocate in debate increased United Kingdom financial assistance to a Government from which they have recently received hospitality. Nor may a Member advocate any other measure for the exclusive benefit of the host Government. Subject to this constraint Members could, having declared their interest, raise matters relating to their experiences in the country either in a speech or by initiating any other proceeding. Similarly they could raise matters relating to the problems of the country generally, or make use of any local insight they have obtained into regional problems (eg the situation in the Middle East or in South East Asia, economic or social problems or an external threat) or information they have obtained on local developments or initiatives.

e) A Member whose visit was funded by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) or other agency would not be inhibited in speaking about its work or the problems it was dealing with. Only a matter which was for the exclusive benefit of the NGO or agency, eg a request for a grant-in-aid to the particular organisation, could not be pursued. Accommodation provided solely for the purpose of holding constituency surgeries is exempt from registration and therefore from the application of the rule.


101. In common with the rules of the House relating to registration and declaration of interest the main responsibility for observation of the ban on lobbying for reward or consideration lies with the individual Member. The Select Committee on Standards in Public Life stated in its Second Report that "it is important to make clear that it will not be the function of the Chair to enforce the ban … during speeches, either by interrupting a Member thought to be contravening it, or by declining to call him. Complaints will be a matter for the Commissioner to investigate in the first instance".[44] The Speaker has declined to receive points of order relating to registration or lobbying.[45]

33   The Resolution was subsequently amended on 14th May 2002. Back

34   The principal Resolutions of the House relating to lobbying are set out in the Appendix. Back

35   Such interests must, of course, be registered or declared when appropriate (see Sections 1 and 2 above). Back

36   Committee of Privileges, Report, Session 1946-47, HC 118, paragraphs 11 to 15. Back

37   Committee of Privileges, Second Report, Session 1974-75, HC 634, paragraph 3. Back

38   Resolution of the House of 15th July 1947, amended on 6th November 1995 and on 14th May 2002. Back

39   Sixth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Cm. 4557-I, paragraph 3.96. Back

40   The above Guidelines supersede the Guidelines in force until 14 May 2002 which reflected the distinction drawn by the Select Committee on Standards in Public Life between the initiation of, and participation in, parliamentary proceedings. Back

41   Fourth Report, Session 2001-02, Restrictions on the Initiation of Parliamentary Proceedings: A Consultation Paper, HC 478, paragraph 15. Back

42   Select Committee on Standards in Public Life, Second Report, Session 1994-95, HC 816, paragraphs 33 and 34. Back

43   Ibid, paragraph 37. Back

44   Select Committee on Standards in Public Life, Second Report, Session 1994-95, HC 816, paragraph 26. Back

45   Eg HC Deb, vol 276, col 605 and vol 277, cols 767-68. Back

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