Mercer affair can only help Nick Clegg’s quest for lobbying transparency and recalling MPs

As more embarrassing revelations come out about Newark MP Patrick Mercer’s conduct, momentum is bound to build behind Nick Clegg’s quest to introduce both a register of lobbyists and a right of recall so that constituents can get rid of an MP accused of serious wrongdoing.

He has talked about both issues recently. Firstly, on recall, reported in the Guardian:

The proposals included in the coalition agreement appeared to have been stalled partly because there was disagreement on what behaviour by an MP could trigger a constituent’s right to petition for a byelection.

Clegg is proposing there has to be agreement by a select committee that an MP has behaved with serious impropriety, but figures like Goldsmith would like the right of recall to be allowed on a broader basis.

Goldsmith said the reform would empower voters and strengthen MPs by giving them implied mandates.

Clegg agreed with the principle, saying it would ensure MPs were “kept on their toes and, most importantly, when they do something wrong constituents should not have to wait until the next election but can short circuit things and trigger a byelection”.

But he warned: “You cannot turn this into a kangaroo court or else everyone is going to be trying to recall everyone else. You have to have some due process in this.”

He added: “I can assure you I want to see recall provisions on the statute book in this parliament.”

On lobbying, just over a week ago he talked to the BBC of his wish to see action on this before the election, which has been stalled by the Conservatives up until now.

The coalition agreement, which set out the government’s programme in 2010, said: “We will regulate lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists and ensuring greater transparency.”

Mr Clegg said: “I do think we need to just honour what we said in the coalition agreement… Like everything in politics, the more open and transparent you can be about stuff the better.”

He added: “I think the prime minister himself said that he thought inevitably there was going to be another scandal about lobbying at some point, so I do think we need to act.

There has been a great deal of talking about both of these issues. Surely it is now time to just get on with it and bring some legislation before Parliament. With less than two years to go before the election, are MPs seriously going to be seen to be voting against it?

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  • The events surrounding MP Patrick Mercer’s being paid to lobby just goes to show how out of touch some of our MP’s are and the level of destruction of democracy from our political parties.

    MP’s are voted for by the electorate to represent us and paid for by us the “tax payers” to represent us in parliament. Not to further line their own coffers.

    If the allegations are true and he was paid £4k to lobby Westminster, it just goes to show the uncouth depths that some of our parliamentarians are willing to stoop too.

    Someone on JSA receives less than £4k a year in JSA benefits, and these MP’s are voting in favor of and calling for further cuts to welfare.
    And yet some MP’s think it is totally acceptable to being paid a salary of £66,396 as well as expenses, only to then go on top of that and participate in shoddy dealings and back hand deals.

    It’s a disgrace,

    Whose cheating who here.

    Benefits claimants are often unfairly labelled as “scroungers” and yet here we have politicians behaving like this for no other reason that greed.

    Time to kick these people to the curb.

    This government promised in the coalition agreement to introduce the “right to recall”

    It’s been 2 and half years and still nothing.

    Time to pull your sticky fingers out of the honey pot and deliver what you promised.

  • Lobbying does need to be controlled and be transparent. Clearly anyone trying to persuade an MP of the merits of a case is lobbying. The problem starts when interest groups have money and power. Unfortunately, those with money and power will always find ways to offer inducements that are much worse than this example and elusive to detect.

    Actually, I am uneasy about sting operations. I hope that the journalists had good reason to go after Patrick Mercer (i.e. strong suspicions of underhand payment with genuine interest groups), otherwise any response will merely sort out the fools and do nothing to deal with the villains.

  • No suggestion so far of any wrongdoing by Lib Dem MPs, but need to be more careful about signing EDMs in future.

    For example, can Mike Hancock (in this case) explain why he signed the Fiji EDM?

  • There has been a great deal of talking – and the legislation originally proposed by the coalition Government was a joke. The statutory register originally proposed doesn’t even include in-house lobbyists. Nor would it resolve issues with unelected Lords making legislation, or even being on the payroll of lobbying firms, whilst having conflicting business interests.

    Remarkably pro-reform NGOs are joined by most of those within the lobbying industry in viewing the coalition govt’s original proposals to be too weak – and have criticised Chloe Smith the minister in charge has done nothing since getting in post in the reshuffle last year.

    If Nick Clegg was really going to act – he might like to part from his coalition partners and criticise them for doing nothing. But it isn’t even clear how much reform he really supports – the quotes in the Guardian suggest he is only willing to push for minimalist reforms rather than anything truly transparent.

  • Can I propose a 100% windfall tax on all lobbying payments?

  • Hmmm, open and transparent?

    Ok, are Lord Reynard and Mike Hancock serial sexual offenders, yes or no?

  • Kevin Maher 2nd Jun '13 - 9:08am

    Peers should also be subject to a sanction. At least MP’s can be kicked out at a general election, no such luck with peers.

  • David Wilkinson 3rd Jun '13 - 8:35am

    The proposal of a Peer being kicked out of the H of L if they have 12 months in prison is a joke, if you have a conviction of 3 months or more you are disbarred as a councillor.

    Both Houses of Parliament are a stinking cesspit

  • David Allen 4th Jun '13 - 11:55am

    Clearly the Coalition do not really want any reform, they just want to appear to be doing something when the heat is on, and then drop it once the heat is off again. That’s the only explanation for the brilliant move to bring in some extraneous union-bashing. That way, Cameron and Clegg can make Labour jump up and scream blue murder, and kybosh any attempt at reform. And then, Cameron and Clegg can blame Labour for kyboshing the reform!

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