Sheerman Lobbying Prompts Calls for Ban

Earlier this month Guido told how Labour’s Barry Sheerman became the first serving MP to register as a lobbyist. The Huddersfield MP is chairman of Policy Connect, an organisation which charges firms between £175 and £20,000 to become members of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs). Those firms are then able to attend APPG events held in parliament, potentially gaining access to MPs and ministers. Sheerman says the House authorities don’t consider him a lobbyist, even though the lobbying registrar found that Policy Connect does provide lobbying services…

Now the Public Relations and Communications Association and the Association of Professional Political Consultants have written to Parliament’s Standards Commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, to express concern over Sheerman’s activities. The letter reads:

“We are writing to you following the recent decision by the Lobbying Registrar, Alison White, that the work carried out by Barry Sheerman MP under the aegis of the not-for-profit organisation Policy Connect is classed as lobbying. As you will know Mr Sheerman has since submitted an entry onto the Statutory Lobbying Register. This is the first time that an elected policy-maker has also been classified as a lobbyist, which causes us some concern. It seems to be inconsistent that Mr Sheerman is classified as a lobbyist by the Register of Consultant Lobbying and yet the MPs’ Code has, hitherto, permitted this lobbying. It is our view that no MP should work as both a legislator and paid consultant lobbyist… The sort of conflict highlighted by Mr Sheerman’s involvement in Policy Connect serves to diminish confidence in the work of lobbyists and policy-makers.”

The letter asks the Standards Commissioner to change the MP’s Code of Conduct, which is due for review, so as to ban members from carrying out such work:

“Changes to the MPs’ Code of Conduct preventing members carrying out any work which would necessitate compliance with the Register of Consultant Lobbyists seem to us fundamental to any changes to the Code and we hope that the case of Mr Sheerman and Policy Connect and its implications will be considered as part of this review work by the new Committee and any further work undertaken by yourself.”

The sooner the better…




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