Ban second jobs: Jon's letter to the Prime Minister
Jon wrote to the Prime Minister on Monday 8th November following the debate on MPs Standards Processes and on paid lobbying. You can read the letter or download the PDF below.
Dear Prime Minister, I write to you in light of the recent developments regarding the scrutiny of MPs' behaviour under the Code of Conduct, including MPs’ financial interests and the role of donations and payments from vested interests in influencing the work of MPs and political parties.
I have worked on the subject of reform of standards in public life for the past decade, including in my role of Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office under Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn. I have given extensive consideration to the role of lobbying in Parliament and the corrosive impact of vested interests paying for influence.
I believe we need a root-and-branch transformation to make our public institutions the servants of the people, so that both state power and wealth are required to serve the common good. I am very much concerned that it should be a full-time job to effectively represent the residents of a parliamentary constituency and one that does not allow time to represent other paid interests. MPs are well paid and receive generous expenses. There is no place for additional employment or payment.
My concern is that not only are private vested interests seeking to disproportionately influence political life but that also each new story revealing the impact of unchecked privilege undermines our democracy and alienates the actions of Westminster from everyday life.
The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 and the Trade Union Act 2016 were partisan bills that limited the impact of clearly regulated and clean money from charities, non-government organisations and trade unions, whilst insufficiently regulating private and corporate lobbying interests. Any new review of regulating influences on MPs must take on this task.
I note that the Committee on Standards in Public Life recently published its 23rd report, setting out a number of areas in need of reform, including the regulation of the Ministerial Code; the scope of the Business Appointment Rules; reforms to the powers of the Commissioner for Public Appointments; and transparency around lobbying. I am conscious that the House of Commons Committee on Standards is due to publish a report on the Members Code of Conduct. And I welcome the commitments from the Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office and from the Speaker of the House of Commons to ensure a cross-party approach, involving the Chair of the Committee on Standards. Whilst there now appears agreement on achieving a body to conduct a review, whose membership must be acceptable to the whole House, I wish to set out some of the Terms of Reference which I believe any such review should adopt.
The Leader of the Opposition today set out that any such review should consider banning paid consultancies and directorships, the powers to regulate business appointments, and the appointments process to the House of Lords. I welcome these proposals but ask that the review have a broader remit.
In my recent paper, The Nature of Wealth in Britain, I set out a series of proposals which I believe should be considered.
These include establishing new rules on political finance further regulating permissible donations to parties and MPs; establishing a new lobbying register to extend coverage to in-house lobbying and to increase reporting requirements for lobbying of Ministers and MPs; establishing a separate register of consultancy firms to ensure Departments are recording their engagement with consultancy forms and recording the value of those contracts; and abolishing and replacing the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments with a stronger regulator. Those proposals are set out below. I hope to engage you further in this discussion.
MP for Hemsworth
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister
Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House
Keir Starmer, Leader of the Opposition
Angela Rayer, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
Thangam Debbonaire, Shadow Leader of the House
Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker, House of Commons
Chris Bryant, Chair, House of Commons Committee on Standards
Lord Evans, Chair, Committee on Standards in Public Life
Recommendations from the report The Nature of Wealth in Britain
Tackling Vested Interests
Establish new rules on political finance
Prevent regulated donees (political parties, elected office holders and members associations) and non-party campaigners from accepting donations or loans from individuals who are not domiciled in the UK and who are non-resident for tax purposes;
Prevent regulated donees and non-party campaigners from accepting donations or loans from individuals that are not tax compliant. Labour will ban those involved in tax evasion and avoidance from making political donations;
Require that any private or public company that makes a political donation or loan must be able to demonstrate that it generates sufficient income from UK trading to fund any contribution it makes. This is to prevent impermissible donations through a UK registered subsidiary; Companies must have published at least one set of accounts before donating.
Establish a new Lobbying Register
Cover in-house employees engaged in lobbying, which is currently excluded by existing legislation; - Under this scope, think-tanks that engage in activity classed as lobbying will be required to register, irrespective of whether they received money specifically for this purpose. They would also be required to declare their funders (not being able to declare their ‘clients’).
Cover contact made by individuals or organisations engaged in lobbying with any employee of government and not just permanent secretaries and special advisers;
Cover any contact made by an individual or organisation engaged in lobbying with Members of Parliament and not just ministers;
Expand the reporting requirement to include the specific nature of the lobbying engagement, who is being targeted and what policy areas are under discussion, on behalf of whom. Specific reference must be given to legislation or bills when it applies. Ministers must also provide a comparable level of detail in their diary returns so as to help detect reporting anomalies between the two accounts;
Expand the reporting requirements to include the estimated value of the lobbying activity registered;
Expand the reporting requirements to include a list of current employees engaged in lobbying that have worked in the public sector in the 5 years prior to registration;
Clamp down on lobbyists or ministers from refusing to properly disclose information on the basis of a minister claiming to be acting in ‘a personal capacity’;
Carry tougher sanctions for those individuals or organisations that fail to register the appropriate level of detail. Sanctions will include a ban on future meetings with public officials as well as monetary fines;
Be staffed with significantly more than the 1.5 FTE civil servants currently working on the Register;
Ban MPs from holding paid second jobs.
Establish a separate Register of Consultancy Firms
Require each department to submit quarterly returns, detailing all contracts currently held with consultancy firms, so as to enable the public to better identify potential conflicts of interests. The Register will contain the following information:
i. The value of the contract;
ii. The start and end date of the contact;
iii. The purpose of the contact;
iv. The specific policy area relevant to the contract;
v. Whether the consultancy firm has as a client any private sector organisations affected by or interested in the policy area the contract relates to.
2. Require each department to submit quarterly returns, listing the number of secondments both in and out of the department, from and to private sector organisations, and the policy areas those individuals listed are working on;
3. Consultancy firms that also engage in activity captured by the new Lobbying Register will still be required to register there;
4. The Consultancy Register will also help in departments’ push to reduce the role of consultancy firms in government.
Abolish the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA)
Replace ACOBA with a new statutory body that will:
Have sufficient resources and powers to effectively regulate the post-public employment of former Ministers and crown servants;
Enforce newly written business appointment rules;
Produce rulings that are mandatory and not just advisory, and backed up with tougher penalties for non-compliance;
Be more representative of society its membership, and not packed with establishment figures;
Encourage and support Departments to take a more active role in applying and enforcing the newly created rules. Each Department will appoint one non-executive director to take responsibility for the application of the business appointment rules.