Parliament 'plans clampdown on funding of cross-party interest groups
Parliament ‘plans clampdown on foreign lobbying’ to avoid interest groups funded from abroad becoming new sleaze scandal
- MPs looking at funding and management of all-party parliamentary groups
- APPGs are informal arrangements with no official status within Parliament
- Yet there are more than 700 producing reports and funding trips abroad
Parliament is planning an overhaul of special interest all-party parliamentary groups over fears they could become the next source of a political sleaze scandal.
They are considering a ban on foreign funding for cross-party APPGs and the role of lobbyists in running them amid fears some whitewash controversial nation states.
APPGs are informal arrangements with no official status within Parliament, yet there are more than 700 registered covering everything from various different countries to Smoking and Health and Yoga in Society.
They produce reports and fund visits – often abroad – for MPs and peers involved with their work.
Now Speaker Lindsay Hoyle is reported by the Telegraph to have teamed up with Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg and Standards Committee chairman Chris Bryant to make them more transparent.
Research by the charity Transparency International suggests 36 APPGs about countries are run by eternal bodies, with two funded by a foreign state, 23 by campaign groups and six by private businesses.
Now Speaker Lindsay Hoyle is reported to have teamed up with Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg and Standards Committee chairman Chris Bryant to make them more transparent.
Research by the charity Transparency International suggests 36 APPGs about countries are run by eternal bodies, with two funded by a foreign state, 23 by campaign groups and six by private businesses
Its anti-corruption expert, Alex Runswick, told the Telegraph: ‘While APPGs can benefit both Parliament and wider society, they are also a way for vested interests, including foreign governments, to gain access to Lords and MPs.
‘Despite these groups being a wellknown backdoor for lobbying, there are weak safeguards to protect against undue influence and the perception that money can buy influence in our politics.
‘We know that corrupt and repressive regimes have sponsored APPGs to whitewash their appalling track records on human rights and corruption.
‘Through the use of all-expenses-paid trips and choreographed photo opportunities with their leaders, some despotic regimes have sought a veneer of legitimacy from their engagement with our parliamentarians.’
Earlier this year Parliament’s two speakers had to intervene to ban China’s ambassador to the UK from visiting Westminster after an invitation from the APPG on China.
Zheng Zeguang was told by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and his counterpart in the upper chamber, Lord McFall, that he could not enter the estate for a talk scheduled for September.
He was due to meet the APPG, which is led by Tory MP Richard Graham.
But Sir Lindsay argued it would not be ‘appropriate’ for the ambassador to meet at the Commons while seven parliamentarians remain sanctioned by Beijing for criticising the Communist regime.
Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and other sanctioned politicians welcomed the ‘strong principled stand’ taken by the speakers.
But Mr Graham expressed his ‘regret’ that he would have to postpone the talk.
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