Lobbying rules should be made clearer, says Cabinet minister

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  • Owen Paterson
    British Conservative Party politician (born 1956)
Clear rules: Anne-Marie Trevelyan (PA Wire)
Clear rules: Anne-Marie Trevelyan (PA Wire)

A cabinet minister on Monday called for a fresh clampdown on lobbying by MPs, as Boris Johnson came under renewed attack over his handling of the Owen Paterson scandal.

Parliament’s code of conduct bars MPs from using their position to lobby for companies but members are permitted to hold second jobs as a director, consultant or adviser.

With the Commons holding an emergency anti-sleaze debate on Monday, MPs are facing intense scrutiny over outside interests following Mr Johnson’s botched attempt to save Mr Paterson last week.

The Parliamentary Standards Committee recommended a 30-day suspension for Mr Paterson after standards watchdog Kathryn Stone found he had breached lobbying rules while acting as a £100,000-a-year consultant for Lynn’s Country Foods and the medical firm Randox.

MPs on the committee are considering tighter restrictions on MPs holding second jobs as consultants and today Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the International Trade Secretary, backed calls to make the rules clearer.

“I don’t think having a role when you are an MP that is a lobbying role is necessarily appropriate,” she told LBC.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who chairs the standards committee, said: “There should be a rule saying ... they shouldn’t have a job where they are effectively peddling to government ministers.”

Mr Johnson ordered Tory MPs to back a move last week to pause Mr Paterson’s suspension while a review of the watchdog was carried out. He U-turned less than 24 hours later after a backlash.

That storm has led to fresh questions over his own conduct, notably whether he properly declared a holiday at a villa owned by the family of Lord Goldsmith and who paid for his flat’s refurbishment.

Ms Trevelyan said: “[He] has followed the appropriate ministerial guidelines and registered all those activities.”

‘Let sleaze watchdog get on with her job’

Parliamentary standards watchdog Kathryn Stone should be “allowed to get on with her job”, International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said on Monday, following accusations that ministers tried to force her out over the Owen Paterson sleaze storm.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said last week that Ms Stone should consider her position amid calls for a review of the body which oversees MPs’ standards.

Although the Government scrapped a move last week to delay Mr Paterson’s 30-day suspension for breaching lobbying rules while a wider review was carried out, Ms Stone has reportedly been given extra security after an increase in abuse following Mr Kwarteng’s remarks.

But Ms Trevelyan said that while MPs still wanted to discuss introducing a new appeals process for MPs found guilty of breaking the code of conduct, on Ms Stone she said: “Kathryn needs to be allowed to get on with her job.

“She is independently appointed and she will continue to do her job, no doubt she will… I hope that Kathryn’s situation will be eased and those aggressive voices will be removed from her environment.”

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