Peter Luff: My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech, and I agree with every word. On the subject of tax, however, I want to highlight one particular danger. A multinational company wanting to make representations to a Minister or a permanent secretary—that is very

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unlikely—is likely to be an accountancy firm, not a lobbying firm, but accountancy firms are specifically excluded from the Bill. It is a bizarre exclusion.

Tracey Crouch: I agree entirely with the principle to which my hon. Friend refers, but as it happens, we had tax experts in Aviva and we were able to use them. We did not need to employ accountancy firms, but we did on occasion need to employ experts from law firms. The problem with this part of the Bill is that it does not extend to that.

We need to be clear that lobbying must be transparent and there needs to be a level playing field. At present, I am afraid that clause 1 and the first part of the Bill do not allow that to happen. I hope that my Front-Bench team are listening and hope that they recognise the genuine concern about whether the definition goes far enough. I hope they will consider expanding the definition either today or in later stages of the Bill’s passage to ensure both transparency and a level playing field.

6.45 pm

Chris Bryant: I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) on her speech. I like the fact that she takes no hostages from among her own colleagues who betray their ignorance and all. I entirely agree with her: there is no point in introducing a Bill that destroys the whole premise of decent, open, transparent lobbying in this country, because it is one of the fundamental precepts that inform the way we do our democratic business.

Our legislation would be consistently weaker if people had no opportunity to lobby us. Let us face it: most of the time we are dealing not with issues on which we are the experts but those that are way beyond our normal ken, so it is important that people come here to inform our decisions.

I would say, just as the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford said, that it is very rare for a lobbyist to devote their energy to the permanent secretary, who will nearly always be entirely irrelevant to the process in hand. Normally, the Minister would be the person of last resort to whom a lobbyist would go because they would want to persuade members of a Select Committee, people sitting on the Bill Committee and all sorts of other people that need to be persuaded long before thinking of engaging with the Minister. Special advisers are essential to that process.

Paul Flynn: Before my hon. Friend goes into orbit in praising the saintly activities of the lobbying world, will he agree that the worst activities of lobbyists can be found among the corporate lobbyists, who buy advantage for the already advantaged? The purpose is to give extra access and extra influence to those who are already rich, privileged and wealthy. Is that not what we need transparency about?

Chris Bryant: I am not suggesting that all lobbyists are saints, but most of the world is somewhere between saints and sinners. Of course we want a level playing field. I do not want a corporation, by virtue of having deep pockets, to have a special advantage over those who do not have deep pockets, but I do not want to say that a corporation should not be able to put its case, simply because it is a corporation.

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I mentioned on Second Reading that when the mental health legislation was going through Parliament I would not have been a valuable, I hope, member of the Public Bill Committee if it had not been for Mind and other mental health charities, the British Medical Association and other organisations coming to lobby us. I have to say, too, that the pharmaceutical companies, which others may want to paint as the devil incarnate, had an informed voice to bring to the debate. In the end, I had to make a judgment—that is what I am paid to do—about where the right public interest lay. I think it right and proper, when it comes to this Bill, to ensure that everybody knows about all that activity, not just a tiny proportion of it.

The hon. and learned Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox) is slightly wrong in what he suggests. It is true that we are debating clause 1, but many of the amendments in this group refer to clause 2, schedule 1 and other provisions. Those are the elements of the Bill that profoundly limit the effects that this so-called lobbying Bill would have. There are 15 Government amendments in the group, one of which is one of the most bizarre amendments I have come across. Amendment 84, which can found on page 667 of the amendment paper and was tabled by the Leader of the House, reads:

“Clause 25, page 11, line 31, leave out from ‘lobbying’ to end of line 32.”

If the amendment were accepted, clause 25 would simply read:

“‘consultant lobbyist’” means a person who carries on the business of consultant lobbying”.

If that is not a circular provision, I do not know what is. The hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) said earlier that a very small net was being employed. This is not a net; it is fly-fishing. I can think of only one person who might be caught by it, and that is the Prince of Wales.

Paul Flynn: Hear, hear.

Chris Bryant: I do not believe that that is the aim of the Government’s legislation, although it may have suddenly got my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) on board.

Mrs Main: On a need-to-know basis, I agree with what the hon. Gentleman is saying. I do not wish to use tortuous means to obtain correspondence from someone who says

“I would prefer for my email not to be sent to the MPs” ,

or, in my case, to a solicitor fighting against a proposal. I am happy for the hon. Gentleman to see my report, because I was trying to find out what lobbying was going on. We should be able to know what is happening. I have no problem with lobbying—it is not a dark art—but I have a problem with things that are being concealed.

Chris Bryant: Absolutely. Indeed, let us get it all out in the open: I used to be a lobbyist. I used to lobby for the BBC in Brussels. All right, the Daily Mail hates me. That is just about every bad thing knocked into one. However, I believed that the work that I was doing had to be done openly, transparently and publicly, and I was entirely happy about that. The European Parliament

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has a register, everything must be declared openly, and it is all above board. I wish that we had the same arrangement here.

In recent years I have worked with the UK Public Affairs Council, which now produces a voluntary register. It is online, and it is pretty good. It is possible to detect a fair amount of the lobbying that is going on, and to detect who represent what clients and so on. I fear that if the Bill is passed, it will not be in the interests of the vast majority of the people who are currently signed up to an online voluntary register. The Bill means that they will not have to register, and it will not be in their interests to go the extra mile and sign up to the voluntary register, so we shall end up with less transparency rather than more.

Tom Brake: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Bryant: I am happy to give way to the Minister if he can assure me—he need only nod—that he will tell me how many organisations will be caught by the Bill. I have not seen him nod yet. I will not give way to him until I see a nod.

Tom Brake indicated assent.

Chris Bryant: All right.

Tom Brake: I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the. Member for Norwich North (Miss Smith), will respond to him on that point. [Interruption.] However, I wanted him to explain why he felt that organisations that are currently on a voluntary register—there is no requirement for them to be on it—would automatically choose to cease to be on that register. Many consider that being on it is to their commercial advantage, because it is a unique selling point when it comes to working with their clients.

Chris Bryant: We now know that a Liberal Democrat nod really means a shake of the head. The right hon. Gentleman said that he was going to tell us how many organisations would be caught by the Bill, but now he says that the other Minister will answer my question. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport West referred to albatrosses earlier. As I recall, in Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” the mariner shoots the albatross, which then hung around the mariner’s neck until all the people involved on the ship had died. I fear for the Parliamentary Secretary. I fear that, charming and wonderful as she is, this Bill will be hanging around her neck, and the necks of several other Members, until they have all passed on, politically at least.

Let me say this to the Minister. The reason many people will choose to opt out of the voluntary register on which they are listed at present is that there will now suddenly be a mandatory register to which only a tiny proportion of people will be required to sign up. Until the Government are prepared to say what proportion—

Tom Brake rose—

Chris Bryant: If the Minister wishes to intervene, he should nod again.

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Tom Brake indicated assent.

Chris Bryant: Right—that is the second nod. I can tell the Minister that the voters will not be prepared to accept three nods and still get a shake of the head from the Liberal Democrats. I hope that this is a real nod.

Tom Brake: I can tell the hon. Gentleman the answer to his earlier question: 350 organisations will be covered. However, he has still not responded to my question. Will he explain why organisations that are currently on a voluntary register should decide to remove their names from it. What advantage would they gain?

Chris Bryant: It is not a question of the advantage that they would gain; it is a question of the disadvantage of being on the voluntary register. If the Government are to introduce one mandatory register, saying that it is all that is required by public society, of course such organisations will make that decision.

Thomas Docherty: The Deputy Leader of the House has just given a figure of 350. I suspect that the Government plucked that figure from Australia and Canada and bunged it into the impact assessment, and that it is not based on any knowledge of the United Kingdom industry.

Chris Bryant: My hon. Friend is right. It is clear from clause 2—the amendments that we are considering relate partly to clause 2 and to paragraph 3 of schedule 1 —that any organisation whose main purpose is not lobbying, such as a legal firm, an accountancy firm of a broadcaster, will not be required to register at all. The hon. and learned Member for Torridge and West Devon made a very good point when he said that the industry had changed in the last 10 years. Many Government relations companies that used to stand alone have been brought into wider companies that deal with public relations and communications of a much more general sort. Those organisations will not be required to register. Moreover, the words

“in the course of a business”

in clause 2 make it pretty clear that a large number of businesses will be able to opt out of the provision entirely.

Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): My hon. Friend rightly drew attention to the circular definition of a consultant lobbyist in amendment 84. Clause 2 states that the consultant lobbyist thus circularly defined “does” do certain things. It does not state that the lobbyist “might” do certain things. It is clear that the majority of consultant lobbyists who may not do such things, as circularly defined in clause 25 as amended, will also escape from being on the register. I think that that will knock several more of the 350 organisations off the register.

Chris Bryant: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Such is the paucity of the drafting of the Bill—cobbled together, I think, at the last minute—that the real danger is that even the people who the Government think do consultant lobbying do not do it in the terms of the Bill, and will therefore be excluded from the register. The Government may think that 350 organisations will be

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covered, but I think that that is a very dubious, dodgy number. I think that it is more likely to be 35 or three and a half or even three.

Mark Durkan rose—

Mr Cox rose—

Chris Bryant: I will give way first to the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan), and then to the hon. and learned Member for Torridge and West Devon, although he was unkind enough not to give way to me a second time.

Mark Durkan: The hon. Gentleman is entirely right about not just the existing paucity of the definition in the Bill, but about the tautology that we are being asked to introduce in the form of the circular definition in amendment 84. Would it not be more honest for the Government simply to propose that the Bill should define a consultant lobbyist as anyone who places an entry in the section of the Yellow Pages that is headed “Consultant Lobbyists”, and that those who do not so define themselves should be exempt?

Chris Bryant: I think that that would be slightly to treat the legislation with contempt—so I am right up there with the hon. Gentleman.

Mr Cox: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has seen the Leader of the House’s amendments 93 and 94, which have just been drawn to my attention. On the face of it, those important amendments would go a considerable way towards dealing with the problems that my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) and I have outlined. They would widen the scope, and would mean that only incidental lobbying activities would escape. That could not be said of any specialist department, so it seems clear that the Government are going some way towards responding to some of the concerns that have been expressed. If the hon. Gentleman has not read the amendments, he should have a look at them and think about how far they go.

Chris Bryant: Of course I have read the amendments on pages 658 and 659, but I think they would have exactly the opposite effect from what the hon. and learned Gentleman says. The concept of a non-lobbying activity is as interesting as the concept of a lobbying activity. That is why I think this Bill provides so many grey areas, and that, in turn, is why I can see that it would recommend itself to lawyers—to lawyers, I repeat.

Jon Trickett: The hon. and learned Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox) is a lawyer.

Chris Bryant: Yes, that is the point I am making. Because of those grey areas, a great deal of business is likely to come from this proposed legislation.

7 pm

Charlie Elphicke: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Bryant: Of course I will, although I am aware that not even the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues think he knows how this industry works.

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Charlie Elphicke: The hon. Gentleman forcefully makes the point that this would be a matter for lawyers, but on my reading of some of the Opposition amendments, they would bring vicars within the ambit of the Bill. That would be a very odd and unintended result, would it not?

Chris Bryant: I think I am the only ex-vicar in the Chamber. It is perfectly legitimate for people to lobby, even vicars—and, for that matter, tarts. I have no problem with vicars and tarts lobbying. For that matter, I have no problem with vicars and tarts lobbying together on a piece of legislation, if that is what they want to do. That would be absolutely legitimate, but I just want to have a level playing field.

If somebody is being paid to lobby on behalf of others, I think there is a higher requirement in respect of our being able to know, but I just say this to the Government: they have brought forward a Bill that is so narrowly drawn in its first part that I think it will do far more harm than good.

This Bill should not be advanced as a Government Bill. It should be a private Member’s Bill. It should be advanced on a non-partisan basis. It is the kind of legislation where we desperately require people to come in and give evidence before we start considering amendments, so that Members such as the hon. Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke) who has just tried to make a pointed intervention on me would be able to learn from the experience of those who are actually—

Charlie Elphicke rose

Chris Bryant: Oh, here comes another intervention—on bishops, doubtless.

Charlie Elphicke: My concern with the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that this should be a private Member’s Bill is that he and I both know that the process for that is tortuous because this House does not lack for wreckers who would destroy any such moves to any kind of legislation that would be more considered and sensible, which is a shame.

Chris Bryant: I have been campaigning for a very long time to get rid of the entirely mendacious private Member’s Bill process and to replace it with a system that works better, but I do think this Bill would be better advanced on a cross-party basis without Government-Opposition divide and on the basis of practical experience of how the industry actually works. There is a danger that we will introduce bad legislation here, and we may well—irony of ironies—have to resort to the House of Lords to try to improve it because the Government nearly always have a majority on any legislation in this House.

Helen Goodman: My hon. Friend is making his case rumbustiously, but I just wonder whether I could bring him back to the problems of definition and the limitations of this Bill by giving a couple of examples. I spent 16 years as a Treasury civil servant, and we were subject to highly formalised lobbying every year before the Budget from the Scotch Whisky Association, the tobacco people, the cider people, the motor manufacturers and so forth, and in the case of the UK offshore operators,

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we had a whole joint committee between the industry and the civil service in order to work out the north sea fiscal regime—

The Temporary Chair (Mr Martin Caton): Order. That was a very long intervention.

Chris Bryant: Yes, but it was a very good one, because it does make the point. I do not think my hon. Friend was the permanent secretary or the Minister—although she was a Minister later on. At that time, however, she was just a humble—

Helen Goodman: Lowly.

Chris Bryant: My hon. Friend was a lowly—although perhaps not a very humble—Treasury official, and the point is well made.

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): Government Members have suggested that Government amendments 92 and 93 clarify matters, but does my hon. Friend agree that they actually have the opposite effect, because whereas before the Government were badly defining what lobbying activities are, they are now badly defining everything else that lobbying activities are not?

Chris Bryant: My hon. Friend expresses far better than I could exactly what I was trying to say earlier, and she is absolutely right.

Let us consider how two areas would be affected by the Bill and the proposed amendments. The first of them is the introduction of droit de suite. When the European Union insisted that every country in Europe had to have an artists’ resale right, the Government at the time—a Labour Government—were wholeheartedly opposed. However, some members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee were wholeheartedly in favour and wanted to persuade the Government to take a different course of action, which we thought was going to be inevitable anyway.

At the time the Design and Artists Copyright Society, the body that administers copyright for artists, was lobbying very hard to have droit de suite introduced in the UK, and on a generous basis—more generous than that originally intended by the UK. So far as I am aware, it never lobbied the permanent secretary, but it certainly lobbied all the Culture, Media and Sport Committee members and a lot of junior DCMS and Treasury officials, and in the end it won its case. It would not be caught by this Bill, however, because its primary purpose is not to lobby, but to administer a system of collecting rates for artists. My argument is that that is wholly inappropriate. The body that was opposed to the introduction of such a right was the body that represents all the art houses and art galleries. It, too, would not be covered by this Bill, but I think it should be.

Communications with Members of Parliament should be included, as the new clause of the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) would allow, just as much as communications with Ministers or anybody else should, because knowing who is trying to influence proposed legislation, and who tables amendments

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and who does not table amendments and so on, is a vital part of knowing what is going on in the lobbying business.

Let us consider, too, recent events in the newspaper industry. I think all Members would agree that it has been ferociously lobbying for quite some time, sometimes through direct means and sometimes through indirect means. The chairman of the Press Complaints Commission is Lord Hunt. I am not sure whether he is still the chairman, but he is a Member of the other House. I am not sure whether he would be included in this legislation by virtue of being a Member of the other House, but he has certainly been lobbying on behalf of a whole set of other newspaper agencies, and he is paid to do so. The Government may say, “Yes, he probably would be included, as that is consultant lobbying.”

Tom Brake indicated assent.

Chris Bryant: The Minister is nodding, so Lord Hunt would be included, but what about Peter Wright? He is the former editor of The Mail on Sunday, but he is now working solely on lobbying on this business on behalf not just of The Mail on Sunday, but other newspapers, too. Would he also be included? I do not think so, as he is a full-time employee of what was Associated Newspapers.

What about Lord Black of Brentwood? He is an executive director of the Telegraph Media Group. He has tabled amendments in the House of Lords and visited Ministers and so forth. He has been lobbying ferociously as well. Would he be included by virtue of the Government’s legislation? I suspect not, but I think most people in the country would think that that kind of activity should be publicly available so that we can all know the basis on which Ministers are making decisions.

Dr Whitehead: I wonder whether my hon. Friend agrees with me about this process. A person who accepts that they are a consultant lobbyist under the definition in clause 25 might then refer to clause 2(1)(a) and say, “Well, I make communications,” and might then refer to clause 2(3) and say “Well, I make communications but I do not make communications to a Minister of the Crown or a permanent secretary and I will agree not to,” and since there is no further definition of what a consultant lobbyist is, their decision not to talk to a permanent secretary—which they would not do anyway, perhaps—would exclude them from needing to be on the register.

Chris Bryant: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It does not have to stop there. The lobbyist can carry on, as paragraph 3 of schedule 1 states:

“A person does not carry on the business of consultant lobbying if…the person…carries on a business which is mainly a non-lobbying business”.

They can opt out in hundreds of different ways.

Thomas Docherty: I am listening carefully to my hon. Friend. Is he aware that Lord Black not only uses his position directly but awards a parliamentary pass to a senior lobbyist of the Telegraph Media Group, who can then wander freely through the corridors of Parliament lobbying MPs and peers?

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Chris Bryant: I completely agree with my hon. Friend. At the risk of travelling too far from the amendment, the real danger of corruption in the Palace of Westminster and the legislature lies at the other end of the building. It is much easier for a lobbyist to persuade a peer quietly to table an amendment in the House of Lords than it is to persuade someone to table an amendment in the House of Commons. That needs to be looked at. [Interruption.] And, for that matter, to hand out passes. The decision about who should get a pass should be solely about security—it should not be about access.

Mrs Main: That is exactly the point I was trying to make in subsection (3) of new clause 5, which states that

“‘government’ includes…members and staff of either House of Parliament or of a devolved legislature”.

Access through staff, who then chat to the MP or peer, is just as valuable, but it is not covered by the Bill.

Chris Bryant: I am sorry, I have obviously not made it clear: I love the hon. Lady. Well, I will not do so when it comes to the general election, but I love her new clause, because it deals with many of the points that need to be addressed. Our constituents want a clear, open, transparent system without any dodgy handing out of passes to staff who are not really working for a Member but for a third party and so on.

Paul Flynn: Is my hon. Friend aware of the case of Lord Blencathra, who was reported to the parliamentary authorities as a representative and lobbyist for the Cayman Islands? The House of Lords authorities decided that there was a prima facie case against him, but then decided not to act, although action is still possible in future. However, what he was doing was certainly against the rules in this House. Should not the Bill address the scandal of allowing permissive rules in the House of Lords because, it is said, its members are not paid? However, lobbying is going on there in a dangerous way, which is grossly unfair to the population as a whole.

Chris Bryant: What about electing the House of Lords? That is quite a good idea. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I have always thought that it is wrong of the House of Commons simply to say that the rules of the other House should be written by the other House. To be honest, the House of Lords is part of the legislature—as much as we are—and if it is to retain that power, it is important that that is done within strict limits.

Lady Hermon: It is very kind and perfectly charming of the hon. Gentleman to accept an intervention.

I know that the hon. Gentleman is a stickler for detail and for getting things spot on, so may I ask him to correct a technical error, which I am sure was a slip of the tongue on Second Reading last week? The hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) spoke before him, and the hon. Gentleman referred to him as the “Irish Member”. As a member of the Democratic Unionist party, I do not think that the hon. Member for East Antrim would regard himself as Irish but truly British—true, true British.

Chris Bryant: I do not always get things right, it should be said—that is a well-established fact. In this case, I am more than happy to apologise to the

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hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) via the hon. Lady, who represents a seat in Northern Ireland but is as British and, quite possibly, more British than I am.

I commend amendment 48, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North (Mr Allen), who chairs the Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform. It meets many of the concerns that many ordinary members of the public would express if they saw the Bill, and certainly the concerns expressed by Members on both sides of the House. Preparing someone to appear before a Select Committee is lobbying just as much as other activities. When I worked for the BBC we regularly acted out appearances before the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. I always got to play Gerald Kaufman, which was one of the more enjoyable parts of my working career.

7.15 pm

We need to catch more of the lobbying business than is currently caught in the Bill, and amendment 48 does so. In particular, it removes a loophole in clause 2 by deleting the phrase,

“in the course of a business”.

It looks innocuous, but it is a massive loophole.

There are many other loopholes to which I have referred, and some hon. Members have referred to amendments that they hope will be accepted. As I said to the hon. Member for St Albans, I like new clause 5, but there is one problem in it, as it pretends that MPs are Ministers. If it were redrafted, it would meet the Bill’s requirements rather better.

Finally, if the Government know that the legislation is so flawed that they have had to table many amendments—we are considering 15 Government amendments in this first group—it would make far more sense to say, “Let’s draw stumps. We all want a piece of legislation. Some parts of the Bill may be serviceable. Let’s give it to the Select Committee and suggest that it draft proper legislation that will work and meet the requirements of the whole House.” If we did so, we would enact a piece of legislation that would last not just until the general election but beyond and make our democratic system stronger rather than weaker.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I concur with my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant). Consensus seems to be emerging among Members across the Committee, with the exception of Government Ministers. We want legislation that reflects, as the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) said, the reality of the lobbying industry as it operates at the moment.

Amendment 2, which was tabled by Labour spokespeople, amendments 48 and 49, which were tabled by members of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, amendment 161, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan), and new clause 5, which was tabled by the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), all seek to achieve some understanding in government that the Bill should reflect the real world. On Second Reading, one of the best speeches was by the hon. Member for St Albans, who talked about her personal experience of what lobbying does in a particular

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constituency and the impact that it can have on one’s constituents. We want legislation that protects the individual Member of Parliament as well as his or her constituents.

I raised the example in my own constituency of the proposal for a third runway at Heathrow and what has happened over the past three decades, but more intensively over the past decade. The homes of some 10,000 people are at risk; 50,000 people, and perhaps more, are at risk of the atmosphere being poisoned in such a way that air pollution far exceeds European limits; 2 million people will experience increased noise across London. There was lobbying from the aviation industry, particularly BAA, formerly the British Airports Authority. A lobbying firm was employed, but its activities were largely a smokescreen for the real lobbying by BAA employees. As I said on Second Reading, many of them had passes to enter the Department for Transport and meet officials. The Bill does not catch that aspect of lobbying, as we have heard in every interpretation by Members on both sides of the Committee.

Amendment 48, however, is rather inadequate, as its definition of lobbying relates to the lobbying of Ministers and permanent secretaries, and does not relate in any way to the real world of lobbying. In the BAA lobby on the third runway there was, as I said, wining and dining of Ministers and senior civil servants, but that was a smokescreen for the intensive lobbying of fairly junior civil servants who undertook the assessments of traffic growth, air pollution impacts, noise impacts and the logistical arrangements around the airport. By the time that the reports that they prepared landed on the desks of the permanent secretary and of Ministers the decision had virtually been made.

Andy Sawford (Corby) (Lab/Co-op): My hon. Friend illustrates the complexity of the situation. The staff of BAA would have been accompanied by planning consultants, highways consultants and lawyers, who also would have been on the payroll to lobby for the third runway and therefore should be included in our consideration if we want a proper Bill.

John McDonnell: That is an extremely valid point. In the real world of lobbying, I have experience of that constituency issue, with BAA employees employed virtually full-time—yes, with a range of experts—intensively lobbying relatively junior staff in the Department for Transport and the Treasury, building up a head of steam around a particular demand from BAA that eventually shapes the decision made by Ministers. My understanding of the debate so far is that such lobbying would not be covered by the Bill and BAA in its new form, as Heathrow airport, would not be caught by it.

Things have moved on. Governments are increasingly outsourcing the preparation of the material that will eventually enable Ministers to take decisions. That outsourcing relies upon the commissioning of external experts—not within Government, but often academics and others—and in addition to that, the setting up of various commissions. The Howard Davies commission is consulting various organisations on behalf of Government about the expansion of aviation in London and the south-east, especially the issues surrounding the expansion of Heathrow. My understanding of the Bill is that the lobbying of the external advisers and members of such commissions is also not caught by the legislation.

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Members may have experienced that process, but let me explain. An intensive lobbying exercise is being undertaken by the aviation industry across the country. Businesses that own individual airports are intensively lobbying Howard Davies’s commission, and they are lobbying external experts commissioned to undertake pieces of work, because obviously they are looking to expand their particular airport. I do not believe, and I am happy if the Minister wants to advise me differently, that any of that lobbying will be caught by the Bill.

The plea from the hon. and learned Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox) and the hon. Members for Chatham and Aylesford, for St Albans and for Foyle—right across the piece—was that, if we are going to legislate, we must legislate in the real world, and we are not doing so. We are going through an exercise that people will think is a waste of time, and many will find it disingenuous. Some may think that, when we have ticked the box, we have sorted out lobbying, but the real-world lobbying will go on as before.

As the Prime Minister rightly said, lobbying is open to the potential for scandal. There have been scandals. What causes me anxiety is that I am prevented from protecting my constituents from a heavily resourced and effective internal lobbying machine within an organisation that could destroy parts of my community and the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of people in west London. The Bill does not meet the purpose. It does not rise to the challenge that the Prime Minister set us, which is to ensure that we have a transparent lobbying process. That transparency can, we hope, enable us to have some element of probity within the system of lobbying overall.

I take what my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda said. The criticism has come from all parts of the Committee. There must be some recognition from Government that these legislative proposals do not stack up. I know that by way of a taunt to the Leader of the House what happened in the case of the NHS legislation was mentioned earlier, but I think the idea of a short pause while we try to get some consensus discussions going is the most constructive way forward. In that way we can learn the lessons from the lobbying industry itself. Members of this House across the parties have had years of experience of lobbying, so we can get some decent legislation in place, otherwise we will bring ourselves into potential disrepute. Members of the public who expect us to represent and protect them will think we are not doing our jobs effectively.

I urge the Government to listen to their own Back Benchers as much as to those on the Opposition Benches who have no axe to grind. Let us see whether we can have some cross-party discussions over the next week or two. We should not allow the Bill to leave this House and expect the House of Lords to sort it out, as usual. That is a derogation of our duty. We must do the work here and send the best Bill we possibly can to the other place, because that is what we are paid for.

Thomas Docherty: I am grateful, Mr Caton, to catch your eye in this debate.

Many colleagues have commented on the drafting of the Bill. I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) about the merits of the private Member’s Bill. Last year I introduced a

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private Member’s Bill on this very subject, supported by our Front-Bench team. I was lucky to work with Simon Patrick and the formidable Kate Emms on the drafting of that Bill. May I helpfully suggest to the Deputy Leader of the House that the Clerks of the House might be well qualified to help the Government draft a more effective and fully baked Bill than the one before us?

I gently point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda that he mentioned my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) by name. I know that my hon. Friend is not a properly read parliamentarian, but I am fairly confident that according to “Erskine May” we are not allowed to mention the name of a right hon. Member, even in a quotation, but I am sure that he did not mean to do so. As he is a new boy in this place, we will let that one pass.

The Government have been caught by their own phenomenally tight definition. I shall speak mainly about Opposition amendment 18, which would remove paragraph 3(1)(a) and (b) of schedule 1, which is ambiguous and creates uncertainty. Sub-paragraph (1) creates a loophole which cripples the aims of the Bill. On Second Reading and in the debate today, I have been struck by the fact that the Government consistently believe that, if they say that a measure is not intended to have a particular effect, that somehow means that it will not have that effect.

The Government were correct one time. As the Deputy Leader of the House said earlier, the Government are not seeking to capture lobbyists—they are seeking to capture 1% of those who would otherwise be defined as lobbyists. Credit is due to the Government; that is the one element that is consistent with their intentions. Unfortunately, sub-paragraph (1) does not capture even that 1%. Sub-paragraph (1)(a) excludes

“a business which is mainly a non-lobbying business”,

and sub-paragraph (1)(b) excludes a business whose lobbying efforts are

“an insubstantial proportion of that business.”

That would mean, for example, that big tobacco firms did not have to declare their in-house lobbying activities, but a small firm of public affairs professionals or consultants campaigning on behalf of, say, Action on Smoking and Health, would have to do so. I will return to that point later. The term “non-lobbying business” is insubstantial and too vague and does not have any real meaning.

The Government’s attempt to try to correct this error, amendment 93, which says

“consists mainly of non-lobbying”,

does not improve matters in the slightest. Unfortunately, what the Government by their own definition mean by lobbying is purely that direct communication with Ministers of the Crown and permanent secretaries. I could understand if the Government were defining lobbying as being what we think of as lobbying. It is interesting the number of Members on both sides of the House who describe themselves as lobbyists. Unfortunately, I suspect that none of those so-called lobbyists are actually lobbyists under the Government’s own definition. They have defeated themselves by drawing their amendments so closely.

7.30 pm

You do not have to take my word for it, Mr Caton. Iain Anderson, deputy chairman of the Association of Professional Political Consultants, an organisation of which I used to be a member, says:

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“There cannot be a grey area. I cannot work out whether my business and our members should be working out for ourselves whether we should be registering. That is a completely crazy situation.”

Unfortunately for the Government, such vague terms and ambiguity is how loopholes, on which lawyers become even richer, are formed. This morning, the Financial Timescalled on the Government to withdraw the Bill and look again at their proposals. The editorial says that this is simply not good law making. This loophole in the Government’s proposals shows just how little they understand the lobbying profession. The chief executive of a major company may lobby the Prime Minister for an hour during a cosy kitchen supper, which I understand starts at £100,000 a go, and have a huge impact on Government policy.

Let us take a fictitious example related to tobacco. An adviser may have a big impact on the Government’s policy, much bigger than the Secretary of State for Health for example, but because his business is mainly non-lobbying, he does not have to register. That is the influence that goes on behind closed doors, whereas small businesses that are lobbying for change, those SMEs that work as public affairs consultants, have to bear the burden of regulation. As has already been touched upon, the burden is horrific. The impact assessment is fundamentally flawed. As I said earlier, it has simply been transposed from the systems in Australia and Canada. It has been assumed that that is how our system works. Given that the Minister and our civil servants had not had a single meeting, until last week, with any part of the lobbying industry, I am bemused as to how they came to that conclusion.

I appreciate that the Minister is getting her advice from the Treasury Whip, but I hope that when she replies she will spell out which lobbying professionals agree with her definition and think that Australia and Canada are a suitable comparator. As someone who has worked for eight years in the industry, it strikes me that civil servants have licked their finger, stuck it in the air and come up with a figure of—[Interruption.] The Deputy Leader of the House chunters from a sedentary position. Perhaps he wishes to add something to the debate. Apparently not. We are going to get the usual curmudgeonly Deputy Leader of the House role; the second Liberal Democrat to do that with such skill and grace in the last few years, and heckle anyone who has the temerity to disagree with his views.

Chi Onwurah: I support the excellent comments that my hon. Friend is making. Will he set himself the challenge of explaining why a Government who set such store in supporting small and medium enterprises, should, as he describes, put such a regulatory and financial burden upon them?

Thomas Docherty: I am most grateful to my hon. Friend, who spoke eloquently from the Front Bench during proceedings on my private Member’s Bill last year, setting out why the Opposition want to see workable legislation. I am more than happy to set out what is wrong with the impact assessment. It uses the Government’s figures and is confused. It says that the register, which covers only consultant lobbyists, will cost £500,000 to set up and a further £200,000 to run each year. That is according to the Government’s own figures, so it must be right. Almost all the firms who are members of the

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APPC are SMEs. I would be amazed if there were one that employed more than 250 people in total. Most are firms with between 20 and 50 employees, so these are not large firms. They are the entrepreneurial firms that we hear so much about from Government Members. But the Government and their civil servants have made up some rash figures. They have said that there are about 1,100 lobbying consultants in this country. I am still not clear where that figure has come from. I think they have taken the APPC list and accepted that that is probably pretty much every one who is “a lobbyist”. They have then said that, if the cost is £500,000, that can be shared by 1,000, which I assume is the 1,000 lobbyists. However, the Bill contradicts that. It says that payment is per firm—the Deputy Leader of the House graciously nods in agreement—and probably only 10 to 20 firms will be caught by the current definition. I am not a great mathematician, but if one takes £500,000 and divides it by 20, that is not £500. It is significantly more. That is just the start-up cost in the first year. That is a disproportionate and huge impact on small businesses.

Andy Sawford: I am trying to make some sense of a pretty nonsensical set of proposals. On my hon. Friend’s point about how the costs would stack up, there are some public affairs companies that are global, such as Edelman and Weber Shandwick. Does he have a view on whether there should be some variation in how the costs are apportioned to the small—perhaps one-person band—lobby company relative to some of these very large companies?

Thomas Docherty: I will just touch on the issue of some of the very large firms. One of the huge flaws is the issue of non-lobbying business—that a firm that is not a lobbying company would not be captured. One example is DLA Piper, a well-regarded law firm and lobbying communication consultancy; it is exactly the type of company that could probably afford to pay something. We are talking about £25,000 per company as the cost of the register, which is not the £500 that the Government’s impact assessment claims. DLA Piper is exempt. The irony about the Front-Bench team that we have today is that the reason why the Deputy Prime Minister’s fingerprints are not on the Bill is that his wife previously worked for DLA Piper. The Deputy Prime Minister, correctly in my view, recused himself from the whole process. Under the Bill as it has been drawn up, however, DLA Piper is not covered. I hope that the Minister for the Cabinet Office is reflecting on that irony.

Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point. Does he share my concern that unless the Government listen to some of the comments made in the Committee this afternoon, we may issue an open invitation to those who might be caught by the Bill to organise their affairs so that they do not have to register, as they will not fall within the Bill’s definitions as they stand?

Thomas Docherty: That is a perceptive intervention with which I wholeheartedly agree. I bear lawyers no ill will, but it is correct that all that will happen is that some of the smaller third-party companies that might be caught and faced with this hefty bill will simply move that element of their business to the likes of DLA Piper or MHP Communications, which I will come on to.

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The Deputy Leader of the House asked a genuine question when he said that surely companies would still wish to register through the APPC register or elsewhere. The answer to that genuine question is this: why would they when they are not required to and there is no commercial benefit in doing so? Having met the APPC on a couple of occasions—I was briefly a member of its board—I know that its huge concern is that its members will say, “We’re paying money already for regulation and red tape, so why would we choose to take on this second voluntary code when the Government themselves don’t think it’s necessary?”

Tom Brake: It was indeed a genuine question I asked, but I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has answered it. He asks why organisations would continue to maintain their entry on a voluntary register under what the Government propose, but of course those organisations have already entered a voluntary register, which they were not required to do.

Thomas Docherty: With your indulgence, Sir Roger, let me try to answer what I think is a genuine intervention from the Deputy Leader of the House. I was involved in the APPC back in 2008-09, when the previous Government effectively told the industry that it was drinking in the last chance saloon. In the previous Parliament, we had the Public Administration Committee report that, as I recall, recommended a statutory register if the industry did not improve public confidence and Parliament’s confidence in it. I made the point that those firms that are working in the correct manner and striving to improve their reputation would join a voluntary body, which they duly did, and the UK Public Affairs Council was set up to try to bring those things together. Regrettably, it was clear that the small number of dubious lobbying firms—dubious individuals, to be more accurate—would choose not to. Many of those who sign up to the voluntary register do so because they want to demonstrate that they are playing to the highest ethical standards and that there is bureaucracy and paperwork involved. It is not a case of chaps sitting around and signing off each other’s practices.

Firms also made the point that, when asked by potential clients whether they are a member of a register, they would simply say, “Well, we don’t do that activity.” In my three years as a consultant lobbyist—I understand that the Government do not accept my definition of a lobbyist—I do not recall once having a meeting with a permanent secretary or Minister, so my firm would have had no need to register. That is why I think that there is a real danger that those firms would say, “We don’t undertake that activity, so the Government and Parliament do not think we need to register,” and therefore the provisions will fall away.

Andy Sawford: I am trying to understand the intention of the Bill as well as its effect. My understanding of the companies that currently participate in the voluntary register is that effectively they are the good guys, although I am sure that we could find examples of where they have not always met the highest standards. What we should really be trying to do, with regard to bringing transparency, is identifying people currently operating outside any ability for us to see what their line of work is or their willingness to be transparent and bring them into some sphere of registration.

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Thomas Docherty: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, as ever—I can see why the good Scots of Corby made such an excellent choice last year—and very perceptive. It goes to the heart of the debate about the Government’s intention and what lobbying is. To be fair, the Minister and the Deputy Leader of the House have set out what they are trying to achieve. The first clause does exactly what they want it to do, which is capture only third-party lobbyists. As the Deputy Leader of the House has said, all they are interested in is a scandal that has never happened, and frankly is never going to happen, and so they do nothing to tackle all the scandals we have had. If I understand it correctly—the two Ministers are present, so they can correct me if I get this wrong—all they are interested in doing is ensuring that if a consultant lobbyist sits in a room with a Minister, that Minister, who one would hope is a fairly bright person, is left in no doubt that that person is a lobbyist, as if he could not have worked that out beforehand—

Tom Brake: And who they were lobbying for.

7.45 pm

Thomas Docherty: Yes, but that does nothing to tackle what the rest of the Committee thinks are the real scandals, such as those we have seen even in the past three or four years: Fred Michel, Fijigate, Lords for hire, as exposed by The Sunday Times, MPs like cabs for hire—I could go on. None of those scandals would have been caught or stopped by the Bill.

Tom Brake: Does the hon. Gentleman agree, however, that some of the cases he just referred to would be covered by things like the MPs’ code of conduct and that we do not require a register of lobbyists to address some of those issues?

Thomas Docherty: If the right hon. Gentleman wants to set out which of the scandals—MPs for hire, Fred Michel, Fijigate or whatever—are covered by the codes, I would be happy to hear him do so. The problem is that they are not. We have already heard some eloquent speeches from my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda and others showing that that is not the case.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): Is not part of the problem that some of the so-called scandals to which the hon. Gentleman refers involved people impersonating lobbyists and so did not involve lobbying in any meaningful way at all? With regard to his earlier exchanges with the hon. Member for Corby (Andy Sawford), I must say that I find the idea that those who sign up for the voluntary register are necessarily the good guys rather naive. I think that the Government are trying to deal with a genuine concern in this regard and should be congratulated on doing so.

Thomas Docherty: I must say that I think the PRU needs to get a better briefing sorted out, because I am not sure what genuine concerns the hon. Gentleman refers to. Perhaps his inbox is different from mine, but in the three and a bit years that I have been in Parliament not a single constituent has contacted me to say, “I’m really concerned that the permanent secretary at the Government Department, when sitting in a room, does

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not know who the person sitting opposite him is and who his clients are.” Actually, given his constituency, I suspect that his inbox is very different from mine.

Caroline Lucas: Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that it would also be a scandal if people got the impression, no doubt completely erroneously, that he was speaking at such length so that we do not reach later amendments on the amendment paper? I am sure that is not the case, but we have to give the Bill an awful lot of scrutiny tonight, so I gently say to him that it would be enormously helpful if he would bear that in mind when making his comments.

Thomas Docherty: I can honestly confirm that I am a parliamentary bore and that I am speaking at this great length because I can bore on the subject, and I think that Members on both sides of the Committee would agree that I am demonstrating that with some aplomb. The hon. Lady makes a serious point about the lack of time that the Government have made available. I deeply regret that the Bill has not gone upstairs, where you would have ably chaired the proceedings, Sir Roger—you would have kept us all in order, as you do so well as Chairman of the Panel of Chairs—and that all we have is four and a half hours—

The Temporary Chair (Sir Roger Gale): Order. The hon. Gentleman must be aware that he is, and has been, absolutely in order. Were it otherwise, he would have been stopped.

Thomas Docherty: I am most grateful to be admonished for staying in order.

The hon. Lady makes a serious point. We have only four and a half or five hours to consider a huge piece of legislation. Frankly, this should have been scrutinised much better. I fail to see what constitutional imperative has brought it to the Floor of the House. I hope that the other place will do a genuine job of forcing the Government to come back and make some proper amendments, because I think that there are some real issues.

These are not issues that just I have concerns about. We have had the most bizarre and unlikely coalition. The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency has said of the Bill:

“It only applies to consultant lobbyists whose business is mainly lobbying. It would exclude those for whom lobbying is only a small part of the business. This could apply to a large number of significant lobbyists-for-hire”.

At the other end of the debate, the Public Relations Consultants Association polled its own members and found that only 1% of activity was covered from under 20% of the organisation’s concern. Even the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope), who I see in his place paying close attention, has said:

“The Bill tries to exclude people whose main business is not lobbying, but it does not define what constitutes a mainly non-lobbying business.”

The hon. Member for Clacton (Mr Carswell) has also criticised the loophole, saying:

“I suspect all that this new rule will do is ensure that in some instances big corporate interests will bring their lobbying activity back ‘in house’. Instead of hiring a public affairs consultancy, the big defence, banking and energy interests will give the work to

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their public affairs department. And because their main business is defence, or banking, or energy, they can safely ignore those provisions of the Bill.”

It is a dreadful state of affairs when two Government Back Benchers—I use the word “Government” slightly loosely, perhaps—are criticising the Bill. I hope the Minister will take on board the genuine concerns that have been expressed.

We have been told that the intention is not to exclude people. To pick up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Andy Sawford), let me give one example of a significant public affairs consultancy—MHP Communications. I should declare that I have met MHP Communications representatives, who have seen me about developments in my constituency. They conducted themselves appropriately at all times.

Andy Sawford: My hon. Friend illustrates the complexity of the industry well. MHP Communications derived originally from AS Biss, which was a public affairs-focused agency. It merged with a media company to become Mandate—I am not sure what the balance of that new company would have been—and has now become MHP. It has taken lots of different forms.

We refer to the different registers; the PRCA code, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations government affairs group’s code and the Association of Professional Political Consultants code relate to different kinds of companies. That is why catching APPC members, of whom we are all very aware and whose business is on the web for us to see, does not get us far at all in terms of transparency.

Thomas Docherty: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is the heart of the problem. Let me quote what MHP itself has said:

“do we work for a ‘non-lobbying business’? In our case, MHP Communications is a full service communications consultancy. We operate a single bottom line approach, and so do not break out the work of our public affairs division. Employees are employees; there is no ‘MHP Public Affairs Ltd’. And the work of MHP is certainly not mainly concerned with lobbying. Even if we were to limit ourselves to our public affairs team, the definition talks about actively lobbying, in the sense of seeking to persuade…members of the Government as well as officials—and this is not ‘mainly’ what we do all day.”

That is the problem with the clause and the Government’s attempt to fix it. It all gets circular—even if we accept that MHP is a lobbying entity, lobbying is defined purely as communicating with a Minister of the Crown and a permanent secretary.

Let us take special advisers, who are not covered at all; we all know that they often have more influence than the Under-Secretary of State. Under the Government’s plan, the lobbyist will be perfectly entitled to have lengthy and detailed influential discussions with a special adviser, and that would not be covered by the Bill. However, the lobbyist could meet the Under-Secretary of State and that meeting would be. Which meeting would be the real problem? One needs look only at the debacle of News International and Fred Michel to see the kind of scandal that can happen.

John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD): I commend to the hon. Gentleman amendment 45 on that subject, which is in the group after next. Hopefully, we will get to it tonight.

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Thomas Docherty: Amendment 45 is a genuine attempt to address at least some of the problem, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me of another issue. I am a big fan of Babcock, a major employer of my constituents and his; some 3,500 people work at Rosyth dockyard. The Government believe that simply listing a meeting with Mr John Gardner, the public affairs director for Babcock, would somehow show transparency. However, as the hon. Gentleman and I know, Babcock has six or seven significant arms, including its nuclear engineering division, which I suspect is of particular interest to him; its defence business, which is of interest to my constituency; the rail division; and the facilities management division. It would not be clear to anybody what such a meeting would be about and what transparency there would be.

Let me bring my remarks to a timely close. Our amendment 18 would sort the issue out in a constructive, well-drafted manner. We are grateful for the assistance of the able Clerks upstairs.

Vicars would not be covered; the Church of England’s public affairs team would be covered, but not the individual vicar, as they would not be paid to lobby. Parishioners would not be covered either and nor would someone giving evidence to a Select Committee. That would impinge on parliamentary privilege, which we hope the Government accept should not be a matter for the courts. We also recognise that someone responding to a Government request for information should not be covered.

I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House and the Minister have listened closely and take away helpful advice from both sides and that the issue can be dealt with in this place, rather than being sorted out yet again in the other place.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Miss Chloe Smith): I rise to address the Opposition amendments and to speak in favour of those tabled by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I shall also address other points raised in the debate.

I begin with the amendments from Opposition Front Benchers, which would replace “consultant lobbying” with “professional lobbying” throughout part 1. The amendments define “professional lobbying” as undertaking lobbying

“on behalf of a client, or…on behalf of an employer.”

Amendment 18 provides a list of exemptions from the Opposition’s broad definition of lobbying outlined in amendments 19, 20 and 21.

The Opposition’s intention is clear, but unfortunately their drafting lacks similar clarity. They have diligently—some might say single-mindedly or simple-mindedly—substituted the term “consultant lobbying” with “professional lobbying”, but notwithstanding the years of experience demonstrated by the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty), their concept of professional lobbying appears not to have been sufficiently thoroughly considered. It shocks me that after 13 years of thinking about these things, they have brought forward so little.

The Government’s proposals for a register are designed to address the specific problem that we have identified: it is not always clear whose interests are represented by consultant lobbyists when they meet Ministers and permanent secretaries.

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Tracey Crouch: I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that the Association of Professional Political Consultants itself accepts the amendments that would replace “consultant lobbyist” with “professional lobbyist”.

Miss Smith: I am delighted to have taken my hon. Friend’s intervention because I will come on in detail to why those amendments are deficient. I have no doubt that they are supported by others who have made their voices known in this debate, but that does not make them a solution to a specifically identified problem. Indeed, the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife kindly confirmed that our Bill does what it sets out to do.

The context is that this Government have for the first time made it clear to the public exactly who Ministers and permanent secretaries meet. The Opposition appear to be trying to solve a different problem, but they have failed clearly to articulate what it is. What exactly is the rationale for a register that requires the local vicar to sign up as a professional lobbyist? The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) seems to think that that is okay. However, if this how Labour Members think they might get back in touch, they will not achieve it by doing this, and it is rather weak for them to think so. The hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife rejects the idea that the local vicar might need to sign up as a professional, but he ought to read his papers more closely.

8 pm

The proposed exceptions from the Opposition’s somewhat unwieldy definition include some sensible exclusions from their concept of professional lobbying but also some major loopholes. For example, an exemption for those who lobby but are not “remunerated” is an invitation to the less scrupulous elements of the industry instead to receive payment in kind. The Government’s provisions do not allow such weak evasion.

Thomas Docherty: Will the Minister give way?

Miss Smith: Once.

Thomas Docherty: I had better make it good, then. The Minister said that the amendments are badly drafted—obviously, Mr Patrick and his team are excellent—but they have been drafted with the support of the PRCA, the APPC, the CIPR and the ALT. What does she know that everyone in the industry, on both sides of the argument, does not know?

Miss Smith: I made it clear at the outset that the Government are seeking to address a slightly different and very well-defined problem. I do not have the years of experience of working as a lobbyist that the hon. Gentleman appears to be advocating I should have, but it is clear to me that a robust definition of “lobbying” is essential to the integrity of any register. The amendments tabled by Opposition Front Benchers suggest that they have struggled and ultimately failed to meet the prerequisite for successful lobbying regulation even on their own terms.

Chris Bryant: Will the Minister clarify who is included and who is excluded? Can she confirm that in the case of News Corp trying to lobby on the full ownership of BSkyB, none of the senior executives from the company

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would be included in the register, none of the public affairs people employed full time by the company would be included, the legal company that it used to do much of its lobbying would not be included, and nor, for that matter, would the public affairs company be included, because most of the work that it does is general communications? According to this Bill, nobody would have been included in the register in that instance, which many thought was profoundly corrupt.

Miss Smith: The hon. Gentleman fails to take into account what this Government have done to ensure that Ministers’ and permanent secretaries’ diaries are transparent and the reforms made since then to ensure that meetings and contacts with news editors are also reported. Labour did nothing about that in its 13 years. It is time that we did do something, and that is what we are bringing before the Committee. I urge right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches to withdraw their lead amendment and the others that sit with it.

Amendments 9 and 48 on advice and meeting facilitation would alter the definition of lobbying provided by clause 2 so that it included the facilitation of meetings and provision of advice in relation to lobbying. Let me repeat that the Government have been clear that the register is intended to address a specific problem—that it is not always clear whose interests are being represented by consultant lobbyists when they meet Ministers and permanent secretaries. We want to ensure that that that level of information can be looked at by citizens, not by the Ministers and permanent secretaries themselves, whom I credit with enough wiles and wit to know who they are meeting.

The register is intended further to enhance transparency within the context of this far more open approach to government than has previously existed. The inclusion of the provision of advice in the definition of lobbying will not necessarily assist in the specific task that we are doing in this regard. I acknowledge that the work of many so-called lobbyists includes the provision of advice and the setting up of meetings, but once those meetings take place it is already clear to the public whose interests are being represented. I am therefore not persuaded of the value of extending the definition to the provision of advice, and I urge hon. Members to withdraw these amendments.

Amendments 8 and 27, which deal with in-house lobbying, would amend clause 2 to remove the term

“on behalf of another person”

from the definition of lobbying. I think that that is intended to bring with it the effect that the register be extended to apply to in-house lobbyists in addition to consultant lobbyists. As I have repeatedly reminded the Opposition and the Committee, the steps we have taken to enhance transparency at these previously opaque levels have already revealed the interaction between Ministers and external organisations. We proactively publish details of all Ministers’ and permanent secretaries’ meetings. It is therefore difficult to appreciate what value a register of in-house lobbyists would provide. It could merely duplicate the information that we already publish. Of course, we do publish that information. Will Opposition Front Benchers confirm in this debate what they have failed to confirm before—whether they would publish their own meetings and diaries? They have consistently failed to meet that challenge, and that is weak.

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We have been clear, instead, that the register is intended further to extend the transparency we have introduced by addressing the specific problem in hand. The Opposition have failed to articulate what problem would be addressed by introducing a register of in-house lobbyists. Such a register may have been of use in relation to previous Administrations whose engagement with external organisations was less open, but it is not necessary now. The Canadian system, which does cover in-house lobbyists, costs about £3 million a year to operate. That system was deemed necessary because the Canadians do not publish details of Ministers’ meetings—but, quite simply, we do. As such, we have designed a register and made proposals accordingly. I urge hon. Members to withdraw the amendments.

Amendment 52 would amend schedule 1 to remove the de minimis exemption that we included in paragraph 3 to exclude those who undertake only occasional lobbying from the requirement to register as consultant lobbyists. This is covered in Government amendments that I will deal with later. I acknowledge the work of the Chairman of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee on this. I assure hon. Members that the Government are keen to listen to the concerns expressed by his Committee and others that the exemption in paragraph 3 would perhaps exclude large multidisciplinary firms. That was never our intention, and our amendment to the paragraph will clarify that. As amended, the exemption would exclude only those who happen to communicate with the Government in a manner incidental to their normal professional activities. Multidisciplinary firms that run consultant lobbying operations and lobby in a manner that is not incidental to their other activities will be required to register. I can therefore reassure hon. Members that the amended exemption provides a necessary and appropriate exclusion for those who undertake only incidental lobbying, but it would not be enjoyed by multidisciplinary firms with active and substantive consultant lobbying wings.

Let me turn to a pair of Opposition amendments that are in this group but, intriguingly, were not spoken about—amendments 25 and 26. They would entirely remove the exemption that we have included in paragraph 7 to ensure that the normal activity of altruistic organisations such as charities is excluded from the scope of the Bill. We all know, of course, that the Charities Commission already imposes strict rules governing how charities lobby, and there is also a specific and onerous regime governing charitable status. Despite that, the Opposition want to remove the exemption for bodies such as charities and require them to register. Interestingly, though, they are not seeking to remove the exemption for the normal activity of trade. The Opposition are thus proposing that charities register as professional lobbyists in relation to their normal activity, but that trade unions do not. I urge hon. Members not to press the amendments.

New clause 5, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), closely resembles the proposals made by the various industry representative bodies. I have had some time to look into the detail of such proposals, and I would like to put on record a couple of the issues raised by such an approach. The new clause would redefine “consultant lobbying” such that the activity must take place in the course of business for the purpose of “influencing government” or

“advising others how to influence government”.

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Under this definition, a huge number of individuals and organisations would be subject to the provisions relating to the register. Furthermore, the definition expands what is meant by consultant lobbying to include the provision of advice to others seeking to influence Government. I do not understand how the problem under discussion would be solved by requiring the registration of those who advise others—I have already addressed that point. If people are made more effective in communicating their messages, that is a matter for them. Of course, it must be made transparent to everybody who receives those communications who they represent, which is what the Bill seeks to address.

The new clause goes on to provide an exceptionally wide definition of those who would have to register. Anyone who attempts to influence, or provide advice on influencing, every level of government—local, central and devolved, parliamentarians and their staff, and public authorities—would be required to register. This includes those working in a charitable, not-for-profit capacity and those in a voluntary position. The new clause includes a number of exemptions and it would be worthwhile exploring them.

Mrs Main: My concern is that the Bill is so narrowly defined it is not worth having unless we expand it, although part of me does not wish to expand it at all. My hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) and the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) have said that it is influence of those at lower levels, not of the permanent secretary or the Minister, that is most important, but that is not captured in the Bill and that is what concerns many of us.

Miss Smith: I thank my hon. Friend for rising to make that point, which is valuable and is addressed by some of the amendments.

The Bill is straightforward about those who should be covered by our register. I repeat that we are being very specific about the transparency we are seeking to achieve. We regard Ministers and permanent secretaries as the key decision makers. I cannot state that much more simply.

New clause 5 brings to mind some unusual examples that we should consider in terms of public interest. A volunteer playgroup manager would have to register under the new clause if they wrote to their local authority about dog fouling near a church and requesting that it cleans it up. A charity that wants to inspire underprivileged children through sport would have to register in order to ask the mayor for permission to use a playing field. Furthermore, the founder of a small business who wants to write to their MP to complain that their waste collection is substandard would have to register as a lobbyist in order to do so. I do not think that those are good examples.

Chris Bryant: Will the Minister give way?

Miss Smith: No. I have given way to the hon. Gentleman once already and I must conclude, because there is plenty of work before the Committee tonight.

I have reservations about new clause 5, although I respect the serious work that Members have done with lobbying representatives. I urge my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans not to press new clause 5.

9 Sep 2013 : Column 766

Amendment 161, tabled by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan), would make all lobbying businesses, not just those that lobby on behalf of third parties, liable for registration. As I have said, it is difficult to appreciate what value a register of in-house lobbyists would provide. I urge the hon. Gentleman not to press his amendment.

Let me turn to the Government amendments in this group. It is clear that they have been spectacularly misunderstood by Labour Front Benchers. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah), who laughs loudest, claims to care for small businesses but appears not to have read the papers in preparation for this debate.

Amendments 76, 77, 81 to 85, 92 and 96 to 98 are designed to exclude the smallest organisations from the requirement to register as consultant lobbyists. They do so by amending the definition of consultant lobbying such that it includes only those who are registered under the Value Added Tax Act 1994, which I am sure the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Jon Trickett) has read in great detail.

The Government are committed to ensuring that small businesses are not subject to disproportionate burdens. An exclusion for those small businesses that are not VAT registered from the requirement to register as consultant lobbyists will ensure that whatever burden may be associated with registration will not be placed on them. The VAT registration represents a clear threshold.

Chi Onwurah: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Miss Smith: Would the hon. Lady like to explain VAT registration?

Chi Onwurah: It would be a great pleasure to explain VAT registration, but not at this point in time. Is the hon. Lady saying that all companies that pay VAT registration are large companies, or is she acknowledging that many small businesses are registered for VAT?

8.15 pm

Miss Smith: I am suggesting a clear, simple and recognised threshold to provide a guide for where to put a de minimis provision.

Amendment 77 will alter clause 2 to include the registration of a person under the VAT Act as a further requirement to be satisfied in the definition of carrying on the business of consultant lobbying. That will exclude those who are not VAT registered from the requirement to register as a consultant lobbyist.

Amendment 82 will remove the provision in clause 22 exempting those who are not VAT registered from the requirement to pay the subscription charge relating to entry on the register.

Amendment 83 will provide that regulations could be made allowing HMRC to share its records relating to registration under the VAT Act with a registrar. Clearly, that is an important resource to assist the registrar. Associated amendments make the necessary refinements to the references to employees throughout this part of the Bill. The exclusion of those who are not VAT registered from the requirement to register means that a number of references to employees should be adjusted

9 Sep 2013 : Column 767

to recognise that employees can never be VAT registered for their employer, a fact that I fear the hon. Member for Hemsworth knew nothing about.

Another group of Government amendments relates to the definition of incidental lobbying.

The Temporary Chair (Sir Roger Gale): Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but there is a considerable amount of noise coming mainly from behind the Chair, mostly from people who have not paid any attention whatsoever to the debate. The Committee wishes to hear not only the Minister, but the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman in her reply, which has yet to follow.

Miss Smith: Thank you, Sir Roger. I will be as quick as I can in making a few points about Government amendments.

It has always been the Government’s intention that those who communicate with Government in a manner incidental to their normal professional activity should not be required to register as consultant lobbyists. These are not the people or organisations that this register is intended to capture. Let me be clear that it is our intention that multidisciplinary firms that run consultant lobbying operations and that lobby in a manner that is not merely incidental to their other activities should be captured. These are the exact professional consultant lobbyists that this register is intended to capture.

We have listened to those who suggested that the exemption in paragraph 3 of schedule 1 was too broad and should be refined, including the Chairman of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee. Our amendments 91, 93, 94 and 95 will refine that paragraph by substituting the insubstantial proportion test with one that focuses on incidental lobbying. Specifically, paragraph 3 will provide that a person does not carry on the business of consultant lobbying if they are part of a non-lobbying organisation or if the lobbying communication they make is incidental to their normal non-lobbying activity.

In conclusion, we are proposing not a fully blown regulator for the industry, but a solution to an identified problem. I am sure that Members throughout the Committee will have read the US federal lobbying regulation manual, “The Lobbying Manual”, which runs to 894 pages. That is what we wish to avoid. I therefore oppose various amendments but support those tabled by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I look forward to hearing what the Opposition think they can do better now than they did for the past 13 years.

Chi Onwurah: It is testimony to the ineptitude of the Government that, after months of delay, they have introduced a lobbying Bill that covers just 1% of lobbyists and still manages to be full of loopholes.

We have heard a lot today about the importance of lobbying in our democracy. We have heard that it is nothing to be ashamed of and that transparency is a good thing that is welcomed by the industry. There is a consensus on both sides of the Committee about that, or so I had thought until I read the Bill and the Government amendments. I was entirely baffled by many of the paragraphs and sub-paragraphs in the clause and the accompanying schedule. It is plain that the Government were no clearer, because they tabled their own set of amendments. However, those amendments

9 Sep 2013 : Column 768




I have read the amendments, despite what the Minister says from a sedentary position, and rather than clearing up the confusion that the Government have created, they create more confusion. In this Bill, it is difficult to distinguish between what is the result of poor drafting and what is the result of poor judgment.

Ministers appear to have created a loophole whereby the vast majority of the lobbying industry can avoid having to register at all. Even the current voluntary registers capture more of the industry than the proposals would. The Deputy Leader of the House estimated in this debate that 350 companies would be caught by the Bill. George Kidd, the acting chair of the UK Public Affairs Council, has estimated that 100 would be caught. At least 15,000 companies operate as lobbyists, so it is clear that the Bill captures a minute proportion of them.

I find the Minister’s assertions that the Bill will not have an impact on the voluntary registers hard to believe. The Government talk about the great impact of regulation and law-making, but they seem to be saying that this Bill, which defines lobbying—it defines it badly, but it defines it nevertheless—will have no impact whatever on the existing lobbying registers. They have very little respect for the impact that the Bill will have, intended or otherwise.

I urge the Government to listen to their own Back Benchers, who have said that the Bill does not reflect an understanding of what lobbying is. The Bill has also been described as a net that is badly drawn and an albatross. I agree with the Financial Times, which said today, less figuratively but equally accurately, that the Bill is “not good lawmaking”. The whole industry agrees with that, rejects the Government proposals and supports the intent of the Opposition amendments. That is why we will press amendments 2 and 9 to the vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 205, Noes 268.

Division No. 77]


8.23 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, Heidi

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Campbell, Mr Alan

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Coffey, Ann

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Doyle, Gemma

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hermon, Lady

Hilling, Julie

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miller, Andrew

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Alison McGovern


Tom Blenkinsop


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, rh Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brake, rh Tom

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Sir Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Huppert, Dr Julian

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, rh Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Sir James

Patel, Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pincher, Christopher

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, rh Hugh

Rogerson, Dan

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Thornton, Mike

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Nicky Morgan


Jenny Willott

Question accordingly negatived.

9 Sep 2013 : Column 769

9 Sep 2013 : Column 770

9 Sep 2013 : Column 771

9 Sep 2013 : Column 772

Amendment made: 76, page 1, line 6, leave out from ‘person’ to end of line 7.—(Miss Chloe Smith.)

Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op): I beg to move amendment 3, page 1, line 6, leave out ‘or’ and insert ‘and’.

The Temporary Chair (Sir Roger Gale): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 4, page 1, line 8, after ‘lobbyists’, insert—


(c) the person has signed up to the Register’s Code of Conduct.’.

Amendment 136, in clause 3, page 2, line 36, at end add—

‘(3) The Minister is under a duty to ensure the independence of the Registrar.

(4) The Minister is under a duty to ensure the Registrar is adequately financed and resourced so that the Registrar can exercise its functions under this Part.’.

Amendment 31,  in schedule 2, page 53, line 1, after ‘Minister’, insert—

‘after consultation with the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee of the House of Commons.’.

Amendment 138, page 53, line 2, at end insert—

‘(1A) The power of the Minister under sub-paragraph (1) is exercisable only following the approval of a proposed appointment by resolution of both Houses of Parliament.’.

Amendment 34, in clause 4, page 3, line 21, at end insert—

‘(c) the approximate value of the registered person’s spending on their lobbying activities for each quarter.’.

Amendment 36, in clause 5, page 3, line 37, after ‘information’, insert ‘and spending on lobbying’.

Amendment 137, page 3, line 38, at end insert—

‘(aa) details of any communications or meetings with a Minister of the Crown or Permanent Secretary that do not fall within section 2(3), and.’.

Amendment 56, page 3, line 47, at end add—

‘(c) if the registered person engaged in lobbying in the quarter in return for payment (whether or not the payment has been received), the purpose and subject matter of the lobbying services provided by the registered person; and

(d) if the registered person received payment in the quarter to engage in lobbying (whether or not the lobbying has been done) the purpose and subject matter of the lobbying services provided by the registered person.’.

Amendment 152, page 3, line 47, at end add—

‘(c) if the registered person received payment in the quarter to engage in lobbying (whether or not the lobbying has been done) the amount of payment received.’.

Amendment 37, page 3, line 47, at end insert—

‘(4) Spending on lobbying for each quarter is the approximate value of the amount a registered person spends on their lobbying activity for each quarter.’.

Amendment 40, in clause 10, page 5, line 28, leave out from ‘offence’ to end of line 30.

9 Sep 2013 : Column 773

Amendment 42, in clause 14, page 7, line 39, at end insert—

‘or breaches the code of conduct’.

Amendment 43, in clause 22, page 10, line 31, leave out ‘seek to’.

New clause 1—Duty to apply a code of conduct—

‘(1) The Registrar shall, after wide consultation with relevant stakeholders including the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee of the House of Commons, prepare a code of conduct with which all registered persons will be required to comply, and may produce revised codes from time to time;

(2) The Secretary of State must lay any professional lobbying code of conduct before Parliament.

(3) Any code shall provide that any inappropriate financial relations between registered persons and parliamentarians are strictly forbidden.

(4) An organisation or person included on the register which contravenes the provisions of the code of conduct shall be liable to civil penalties as set out in Section 14.’.

New clause 2—Disclosure of names of professional lobbyists—

‘The Government must disclose the names of all persons who are professional lobbyists that work for them, including senior persons—

(a) who are employed directly with the UK Government;

(b) who are formally employed by the political party or parties that form the Government;

(c) who are employed on a temporary basis as consultants; and

(d) contractors.’.

New clause 7—Professional lobbyists taking up employment in government—

‘(1) Any professional lobbyist registered under section 1 taking up a senior position in Government will—

(a) have their appointment scrutinised by a Committee, and

(b) have restrictions placed on their activities as set out in subsection (3).

(2) “Senior position in Government” means a position as senior civil servant or their equivalent.

(3) The Minister, after consultation with relevant stakeholders, may make regulations about the activities set out in subsection (1)(b).’.

Clause stand part.

Mr Thomas: I rise to speak to the amendments tabled in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Given the lack of time for debate that Ministers are allowing for this part of the Bill, let me rattle through the case for the amendments.

Amendment 3—the lead amendment in the group—is a probing amendment to explore why Ministers do not want the employer of a lobbyist to be revealed. We were led to believe that the motivation behind the Bill was to make the lobbying industry more transparent. Making it harder to understand who the employer of a person engaged in consultant lobbying is will hardly achieve that objective.

Let us take the example of the lobbying firm that has provided so much of the backdrop to debates on the Bill. If Crosby Textor suddenly decided that, after all, it is a firm of consultant lobbyists, the individuals working as consultant lobbyists for Crosby Textor would not, under the Bill, need to record by whom they are employed.

9 Sep 2013 : Column 774

Given the widespread concerns about what and who Crosby Textor lobbies for, it seems reasonable that the individual consultant lobbyists who work for Crosby Textor should reveal who employs them. The Opposition want transparency, and the Minister says she wants the same thing. We therefore want to hear more on why Ministers do not believe that revealing employers is required.

In speaking to amendment 4, I shall also refer to new clause 1 and amendment 42. Unless the Minister makes a dramatic speech, the Opposition will press amendment 4 to a Division. New clause 1, and amendments 4 and 42, require the establishment of a code of conduct. Such a code of conduct would be introduced after full consultation with all relevant stakeholders. It would have as its top line the need to avoid any inappropriate financial relations between registered persons and parliamentarians. It would also, of course, be available for parliamentary scrutiny.

The absence of a code of conduct from the Bill means there is currently no mechanism for removing or taking other sanctions against consultants who act in an unethical manner. Indeed, as the excellent Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has pointed out, if there is no code of conduct at the end of the Bill’s passage through both Houses, we will have the bizarre situation whereby the registrar can punish lateness in providing or submitting information, but cannot punish unethical behaviour. Arguably, the absence of a code of conduct means that some on the register will describe themselves as registered or approved without having to meet any minimum standards.

Andy Sawford: Given the role of the Association of Professional Political Consultants on standards within the industry, the bizarre consequence of the Bill could be that organisations that are self-regulated will be less regulated than they are currently.

Mr Thomas: I fear that my hon. Friend’s intervention strikes a chord. I will come on to some of the points made by the Association of Professional Political Consultants shortly. Gavin Devine, the chief executive of one of the big lobbying firms, says that

“there is a risk that the register will give a kitemark or endorsement to some who do not deserve it.”

I read the APPC code of conduct, to which my hon. Friend has just referred, with interest. One key element is that


lobbyists who have signed up to the code—

“must use reasonable endeavours to satisfy themselves of the truth and accuracy of all statements…by or on behalf of clients to institutions of government.”

I struggle to understand why Ministers would not want to ensure that all consultant lobbyists ensure their clients tell the truth to them. A code of conduct with such a provision, properly policed, would help to raise the bar—raise the standards—of the whole industry, rather than just those who subscribe to the APPC code.

Consultant lobbyists who sign up the APPC code are expected to be open in disclosing the identity of their clients and must not misrepresent their interests. Having a code of conduct with such a provision would help to ensure that Ministers and MPs would know who was

9 Sep 2013 : Column 775

trying to meet us and allow us to explore whether there were other motives for consultant lobbyists asking for information or advocating particular causes. It seems hardly unreasonable for such a basic standard of behaviour to be expected of all lobbyists covered by the legislation.

The APPC code requires practitioners to have a duty to advise their clients if they think they are about to commit illegal or unethical acts. They have a duty to refuse to act for such a client if the client persists. It is surely not unreasonable, and not too burdensome on the consultant lobbyist, to expect lobbyists to be able to abide by such a requirement in a code of conduct. Ministers need to explain why such reasonable requirements are so burdensome that they cannot be included in a code of conduct, or why they do not think we need to uphold, or ask consultant lobbyists to uphold, such basic standards of behaviour.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): Before the issue of burden is appropriate, there comes the question of efficacy, and a comparison between self-regulation in a code of conduct and a Government-managed code of conduct. What evidence can the hon. Gentleman bring to say that a Government-managed code of conduct is better than a peer group trying to maintain the integrity of their business?

Mr Thomas: The advantage of a statutory code of conduct is that it covers everybody. The problem with a voluntary code of conduct is that it covers only those who choose to submit themselves to it. Given the concerns about the lobbying industry—some of them unfair—surely it makes sense to have a code of conduct that everybody signs up to, after proper consultation, so that we achieve a basic standard of behaviour.

Richard Fuller: I appreciate that point, but one could argue that with an industry-based code of conduct to which people can voluntarily associate, peer group pressure and recognition will arise from people coming together to say, “We are approved in this way”. In some ways that might be a superior alternative to a Government registrar that is open to burdensome bureaucratic processes where, by the time they are resolved, people do not know what the issues are. In an area such as this, which is so open to public scrutiny, and the scrutiny of MPs and others, the pressures on a voluntary code would surely be even greater than they are for many other sectors of the economy.

Mr Thomas: I hear the point the hon. Gentleman makes, but I am sure he will have realised in the course of his research for this debate that there is not just one voluntary code prepared by the APPC, but a number. Although one must commend the efforts of the individuals who have initiated such codes, along with the firms and individuals who have signed up to them, surely it makes sense for everybody to sign up to one clear code of conduct, so that everybody knows what the basic standards are and nobody can be confused about whether certain principles apply in one code of conduct or whether a particular lobbyist is subscribing to another set of principles. That would create clarity for the consultant lobbyist and their client—and for us as the House, therefore—about what is expected of those who seek to engage with us.

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8.45 pm

Andy Sawford: The discussion seems to be going against the grain of recent experience and, when it comes to regulation in the UK, what I think would enjoy cross-party support. In the case of organisations such as the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and many other health organisations, the regulatory role has been split from the membership role. The regulatory role has emphasised a code of conduct and enforcement of standards, whereas the representative membership role has been about advocating for the profession. The two roles are quite different. The voluntary side is about working together, mutual support, peer support and advocating for the role that a profession plays in public policy making; the regulatory role is about ensuring that we can have confidence in the standards of that industry.

Mr Thomas: My hon. Friend makes an important point. One way to have transparency and clarity and to minimise the burden of regulation for the industry would be to ensure that there is one clear code of conduct and therefore one clear set of principles that everybody has to sign up to in order to do business.

Another provision in the APPC code—one that seems eminently sensible, at least on the face of it—says that


that is, lobbyists—

“must not make misleading, exaggerated or extravagant claims to clients about”

what they can do for them. That is hardly an unreasonable or burdensome principle to have in a code of conduct either, so I ask again: why do Ministers not want such a basic principle covered in a clear code of conduct? The APPC code contains other suggestions that we might take forward, including the proposal that

“Political practitioners must not…Make any award or payment in money or in kind (including equity in a member firm)…to any member of…the National Assembly of Wales or the Northern Ireland Assembly or the Greater London Authority”.

As I understand the drafting of the Bill, Ministers have not gone so far as to cover those bodies. Perhaps the Minister can use her response to this debate as an opportunity to explain why a code of conduct should not cover those organisations as well.

Including such requirements or versions of them—I do not want to be prescriptive; there should be proper consultation with all stakeholders about what should be in a code of conduct—would help to raise the standards of the whole profession and, as a result, give the registrar the means to begin to challenge any poor behaviour in the industry that he or she might come across.

New clause 2 would help to ensure proper oversight and better public scrutiny of any potential conflicts of interest when senior roles are taken up in Government by people who were—or, indeed, perhaps still are—lobbyists. It would require the Government to disclose the names of any professional lobbyists who work for them, including those employed directly by the Government and those employed by the political parties that form the Government. The new clause would help to prevent a situation in which the country did not know definitively whether a lobbyist working at the heart of government for a political party, with access to the inner sanctums of

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No. 10 and No. 11, was at the same time lobbying on behalf of commercial interests such as big tobacco or the alcohol industry.

It is surely worth drawing the Committee’s attention to the scandal surrounding Lynton Crosby. The reason that that will not go away as an issue for the Conservatives is that the country does not know whether he is lobbying Ministers on behalf of any big commercial business groups here in the UK. New clause 2—coupled with other amendments to widen the definition of lobbying and to require an estimate of expenditure on lobbying activity—would help to tease out whether Mr Crosby was able to use his position working for the Conservative party to raise the concerns of other clients that he or his business might have.

The issues relating to Lynton Crosby raise the question of whether other lobbyists are employed, perhaps part time, to work for the Government while separately working for their clients to lobby Ministers, permanent secretaries, other senior civil servants or special advisers. New clause 2 is a sensible proposal that would help to make transparent the role of lobbyists who pass from an area of commercial life to become more actively engaged in public life as well.

Big tobacco appears to have successfully exerted considerable influence on Ministers recently. Similarly, minimum alcohol pricing seems to have been dropped as a major Government priority. The presence in the Conservative party of a lobbyist who has access to No. 10, who is notorious in other countries for his other interests and who will not, at first glance, be covered by the legislation does not help to ease people’s fears that Ministers are not being quite so straightforward in their professed commitment to transparency as they might be.

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): The hon. Gentleman clearly sees the new clause as providing some kind of Lynton Crosby moment. Perhaps I can put him out of his misery by reminding him that the Prime Minister has made it clear that Lynton Crosby’s role was to help the Conservative party win the next election—that and that alone. Any meeting along the lines that the hon. Gentleman is suggesting or implying would quite properly be covered by existing rules on the disclosure of who meets whom. This is a complete red herring.

Mr Thomas: With all due respect to the hon. Lady, I do not share her view. New clause 2 would help to prevent any similar concern—

Sarah Newton rose

Mr Thomas: Just let me try to answer the question a little further. The new clause would stop the ongoing concern around Lynton Crosby’s role. I accept that the Conservative party is going to need all the help it can get at the next election, but we need to look further ahead in regard to the future of the lobbying industry. I gently suggest that new clause 2 would prevent further media storms of the kind that has evolved around Lynton Crosby’s role.

Sarah Newton: The hon. Gentleman seems keen to create a media storm around Lynton Crosby’s involvement, but it could not have been made more clear that he has

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an election role. He is involved in work on polling data, and the Prime Minister has made it extremely clear that he is not involved in policy development at all. He would therefore not be involved in the kind of lobbying that the hon. Gentleman is referring to. It would be interesting to find out whether Labour is going to apply the same standards to the team that it will undoubtedly be employing and has employed in the past for the purpose of winning general elections.

Mr Thomas: If Lynton Crosby is only doing a bit of analytical work on polling data, I would gently suggest that the Conservative party is paying rather a lot of money for that service. If the hon. Lady votes with us to ensure that new clause 2 becomes part of the Bill, I put it to her that when we form the next Government, as we surely will do, we will of course be covered by its provisions.

Andy Sawford: Let me clarify my interpretation of the debate on the amendments to which my hon. Friend is speaking. The general tone of the discussion from the Opposition Benches has been about the need to enhance transparency. There is no suggestion in the initiative that the organisations that might be encompassed by a proper regulatory code are engaged in something that is in any way wrong. I think that Opposition Members are therefore quite right to seek to broaden the provisions. I wonder whether Government Members do not protest too much and whether, in a sense, they have something to hide. There may be nothing wrong in the actions of Linton Crosby, but as far as the public are concerned—and I hope this is parliamentary, Sir Roger—it stinks. Nobody should have anything to fear from transparency if they are doing nothing wrong.

Mr Thomas: My hon. Friend makes the perfectly reasonable point that new clause 2 is an attempt to prevent the sort of concerns that have arisen, going wider than our Benches and our parties, about the role of Mr Crosby. New clause 2 seems to me to be a perfectly sensible provision to prevent any similar situation from happening in future.

New clause 7 is designed to make provision for professional lobbyists taking up employment in government. It deals with similar territory, albeit on a slightly different issue, to new clause 2. It would similarly deal with the potential conflicts of interest that can arise when a lobbyist seeks to take up a senior position in government. It is quite possible that someone with considerable skill and expertise who is working as a lobbyist at the moment might secure an offer to work as a senior civil servant. Such a person who has worked in a senior position in government before and has been seeking to widen their career profile might now successfully seek to return to a senior position in government. Having a system in place, which is what new clause 7 allows for, to check that there are no conflicts of interest around such employment is surely sensible and would help to build trust in the new appointment. Together with new clause 2, that new clause would allow the relevant Committee to probe whether there were any reasons to be concerned about any ongoing commercial lobbying interests that such a person might have. I say gently to Government Members that the new clause could have helped to prevent the ongoing concern about Mr Crosby’s role

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and his access within No. 10, so I commend it to the hon. Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton), who intervened on me earlier.

The most appropriate Committee would perhaps be the excellent Political and Constitutional Reform Committee. It has a mix of cross-party talent among its membership and it could explore with the relevant individual whether there were any potential conflicts of interest and, if not, how the situation should be handled, leaving the individual free to go about their public role, with the worry and concern that something improper is somehow going on and is attached to them no longer being an issue.

Mr Allen: It is very generous of my hon. Friend to offer the creation of a more effective Bill to the tender mercies of my Select Committee, but we are not looking for that job. There is a process whereby a special Committee can be created in order to review a Bill effectively and pre-legislatively. It is also important from my hon. Friend’s point of view, however, that the Opposition make it clear that pre-legislative scrutiny, which has barely taken place in this case, must become part of the Standing Orders of this House so that every Bill as a matter of course—apart from in emergencies—goes through proper pre-legislative scrutiny. This must not be a convention gifted to us by courtesy of the Government of the day, of whichever political colour, but must be something that this House does as of right to every appropriate Bill.

9 pm

Mr Thomas: I agree that pre-legislative scrutiny would have been extremely useful in respect of the Bill. New clause 7 seeks to create a more distinct scrutinising role for a Committee of the House in the event of any concern about a commercial lobbyist who takes up a senior position in government, and my hon. Friend’s Committee might be the appropriate one to establish whether there are any conflicts of interest and then put them to bed. I certainly share his aspiration, indeed determination, to ensure that more pre-legislative scrutiny takes place.

Amendment 31 seeks to probe the Government over the appointment of the registrar. It is crucial for whoever performs that role to enjoy the confidence of as wide a cross-section of political life as is possible, and it would not be good enough for the Government simply to pick one of their friends or cronies. We believe that allowing my hon. Friend’s Committee to be involved in the appointment would ensure that the most appropriate and most independent person was appointed, thus providing an important safeguard. I hope that the Minister will feel able to give a commitment in that regard.

Amendment 34, and the consequential amendments 36 and 37, underline our view that information about spending on lobbying should be available for scrutiny. It would be useful to hear from Ministers why they do not think that we should know how much is being spent on lobbying for a particular cause at any one time. In the United States, an approximate good-faith estimate of the amounts that are spent must be published every quarter. It is surely right, in the interests of transparency, for the public to be able to make a judgment about how much is being spent on trying to secure particular outcomes at particular times.

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We know from today’s media reports—thanks to a leak of confidential documents from Philip Morris International—that huge sums are, on occasion, spent on lobbying in pursuit of particular ends. Philip Morris appears to have spent well over £1 million and employed some 160 people in an attempt to keep a proposed tobacco products directive from coming to fruition. Apparently, more than 230 Members of the European Parliament were met at least once. Freedom of information documents have revealed that Philip Morris was not alone among the tobacco giants in wanting to stop the proposed directive, but in just that one instance the picture is of a mammoth and very expensive lobbying operation.

I think that Philip Morris is perfectly entitled to lobby, but I also think that we are entitled to know for what it is lobbying and why, and how much it is spending in pursuit of its own interests. Our amendments seek to tease out the scale of the finance that is devoted to lobbying on particular issues at any one time. That would help to increase the transparency of the discussions that legislators have about particular proposals, and would improve our governance as a result.

Amendment 40 seeks to delete the self-incrimination defence that the Bill currently allows lobbyists to use in order to avoid answering questions asked by the registrar. It would be helpful to hear the Minister’s thinking. We believe that the inclusion of the self-incrimination defence restricts the registrar’s ability to get to the truth. Like so much of the Bill in its current form, clause 10 casts a shadow over the Government’s aspiration for more transparency in the lobbying industry, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s explanation of why the defence is necessary.

Amendment 43 cuts to the heart of the concern of many outside this House as to whether the registrar can be self-financing. There is a widespread belief that far fewer lobbyists will have to register than the Government estimate. Their estimate differs greatly from those of outside experts. Witnesses appearing before the Select Committee suggested only 300 would need to be registered, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) pointed out, the estimates sometimes sink to as low as 100. The Government’s impact assessment, however, suggests between 550 and 1,000 consultant lobbyists would need to register.

If the Government are wrong and all the expert witnesses are right about that, the registrar could be faced with a substantial cost gap, and that would have to be picked up by the public purse. The Government seem to be very relaxed about wasting money, as they have happily written off the disastrous IT projects for universal credit and borrowed billions of pounds to fund the welfare costs of those who cannot find jobs, but it would be useful to hear from the Minister how the apparent fairy tale of a budget for the registrar that the impact assessment suggests has been cobbled together. What is the thinking behind the budget? How have these estimates been arrived at?

Our amendment underlines the point that the public should not have to pay for the regulation of lobbying. If the Government are sensible and accept the definition of lobbying that the majority of those outside the House—and, I suspect, inside this House who have actually studied the Bill—believe is appropriate, there is no reason why the public purse will need to fund any of the costs of the registrar.

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We believe that these amendments will improve the Bill, and I commend them to the Committee.

Lady Hermon: It is a lovely surprise to be called to speak so early in this debate. First, I must say that I am absolutely delighted that the Leader of the House is present, particularly as amendments 136 and 138 in my name and those of other hon. Members were prompted by his comments on Second Reading, when he said, with great enthusiasm:

“To ensure the independence of the system, the register will be administered and enforced by an independent registrar of consultant lobbyists”—[Official Report, 3 September 2013; Vol. 567, c. 176.]

His use of the phrases “independent registrar” and “independence of the system” fascinated me because I read the Bill very carefully from beginning to end and those phrases never appear in it. Instead, the Bill states that the registrar is to be appointed by the Minister—a term which, of course, includes the Secretary of State—but, it is stated in paragraph 3(6) of schedule 2, the poor old registrar can also be dismissed by the Minister