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All-party Parliamentary Groups

Volume 565: debated on Thursday 27 June 2013

3. What steps he plans to take to promote the transparency of hon. Members’ membership of all-party parliamentary groups. (161796)

Rules relating to APPGs are a matter for the House. The hon. Lady might be aware that the Standards Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into APPGs. Its terms of reference include the transparency of the House’s regulatory system.

Given the public concern about APPGs and lobbyists, might it be possible, as a very small measure, to list next to each Member’s entry on the parliamentary website all the APPGs to which they belong?

I thank the hon. Lady for that suggestion, which is one that the Standards Committee might like to consider. Indeed, the House might want to look at that in future. I am sure that we will work to support the initiative.

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will take no steps in this matter until he has heard the evidence and read the report from the Standards Committee, to which the Administration Committee has submitted its own evidence?

Yes, I would like to assure the right hon. Gentleman that that is the case, and we await the Committee’s report with great interest. Incidentally, Members still have an opportunity to contribute to that process. I am sure that we will then want to allow the House the opportunity to consider the matter in great detail.

I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in thanking you, Mr Speaker, for the leadership you have shown in recent weeks in helping to restore public confidence in Parliament after the public’s concerns about lobbyists and APPGs. The Administration Committee, which is so ably chaired by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Sir Alan Haselhurst), has recommended, as part of a range of measures, the scrapping of APPG passes. Will the Deputy Leader of the House confirm that the Government will not oppose those recommendations? On the broader concern about the transparency of APPGs and lobbyists, does he not now accept that all lobbyists must be covered by a register and a code of conduct?

The Administration Committee makes sensible proposals, and I look forward to the House being able to come to a decision on them in due course. On lobbyists, the hon. Gentleman will have heard the debate that took place just a couple of days ago. The Government have made our position very clear: we will come forward with a third-party register of lobbyists.

Does the Deputy Leader of the House not agree that the real problem with APPGs is that there are simply far too many of them and that the House would benefit from the imposition of a moratorium on the creation of any new ones and a programme of amalgamation and mergers across the whole system?

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. We all have our different views on whether there are too many APPGs. The Standards Committee might want to consider that proposal. If it comes forward with proposals to limit numbers, that is a matter that I am sure the House would want to consider.