Undercover footage of MPs highlights “hopelessly inadequate” rules on second jobs

Recent undercover footage of serving parliamentarians negotiating payment to offer advice to a fake investment and consulting firm highlights the "hopelessly inadequate" rules regarding MPs proving consulting services to private businesses, says the Chartered Institute of of Public Relations (CIPR).

The fake company - set up by campaign group, Led by Donkeys - was used as a cover to invite a number of MPs to join an international advisory board to “help our clients navigate the shifting political, regulatory and legislative frameworks”.

There is no suggestion the MPs have promised to do anything that isn't within the existing rules. The House of Commons Code of Conduct, which was approved at the end of last year, states that "[m]embers must not provide, or agree to provide, paid parliamentary advice, or agree to undertake services as a Parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant". It goes on to clarify that MPs should not be paid to advise external organisation on how they may lobby or influence the work of Parliament.

The undercover investigation follows a publication by Transparency International UK that found in the lat six years, over 170 former ministers and senior officials had taken payment from external companies that relate to their previous policy briefs.

Alastair McCapra, CIPR Chief Executive

It's obvious for all to see that there is an existing and serious issue with the relationship between parliamentarians and outside bodies. Either the rules are unclear and unenforceable or MPs feel they can circumnavigate them. 

Recent years have seen an unedifying parade of ministers and other MPs seeking to broker their positions in parliament to earn extra income. From time to time parliament tightens its rules and there is earnest talk of “restoring public trust”, but the gravy train just rattles on until the next scandal breaks. Most public affairs agencies, organisations and professionals keep to the rules and operate successfully without employing legislators, but it is clear that those that do are pushing at an open door.

Root and branch reform is long overdue. Rules governing both parliamentarians and lobbyists are hopelessly inadequate and the public can’t be expected to put up any longer with the venality that is too often on display.

Alastair McCapra, CIPR Chief Executive

The CIPR is demanding urgent reform of the laws around lobbying. Please support us by writing to your MP asking them to attend our Lobby Day for Good Lobbying on Tuesday April 25.


About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations

Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the world's only Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners with nearly 10,000 members.

The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).