Serving Labour MP Registers as Lobbyist

Barry Sheerman this week became the first serving MP to register as a lobbyist (yes, you read that right). The Huddersfield Labour MP is also Chairman of an organisation called Policy Connect, which charges firms between £175 and £20,000 to become members of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs can have external ‘secretariats‘ to help them organise their activities). By dint of their APPG connections, those firms are then able to visit Parliament and attend networking events: the wine flows, ministers sometimes drop by. Policy Connect is listed as the public face of nine APPGs, covering areas from manufacturing to health…

Lobbying Tsar Alison White ruled Sheerman should register after she found that Policy Connect is paid money by its clients who are then given access to ministers. But here’s the rub: MPs are already governed by a separate Code of Conduct that prohibits serving members from acting as “paid advocates”. Sheerman told The Guardian that Parliament’s Standards Commissioner has informed him that he is not in breach of the Code. So the House authorities don’t think Sheerman is a lobbyist, but simultaneously the lobbying registrar says his organisation does provide lobbying services…

Nicholas Dunn-McAfee, Head of Public Affairs, Policy, and Research at the Public Relations and Communications Association, said:

“Barry Sheerman has become the first MP to feature on the Register. On one hand, we have the Standards Commissioner and MPs’ Code of Conduct which prohibits paid advocacy and does not consider Sheerman to be a lobbyist. On the other hand, we have the Register of Consultant Lobbyists which clearly considers Sheerman’s company to be offering lobbying services.

“How are the public meant to have trust in our democracy when the right hand and the left hand disagree on the fundamental point of who is and is not a lobbyist? The cracks are clear for all to see: it is time to look again at lobbying regulation in the UK and strengthen the definition to include all those who influence government or advise others how to influence government.”

The Sheer mess of it all…

UPDATE 16.30: The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) says the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life should rule on Sheerman’s case. CIPR’s Paul Beckford said:

“It is hard to see how an MP can fall within the remit of the statutory lobbying register and at the same time comply with the MP’s Code of Conduct which says ‘No Member shall act as a paid advocate in any proceeding of the House’. The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life should now decide if registering as a Lobbyist is compatible with the rules of the House of Commons and the MPs Code of Conduct.”




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