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Politicians Politics PRCA

MPs shouldn't work for lobbying companies, simple

By Francis Ingham, director general

October 18, 2017 | 4 min read

There are some things that you shouldn't need to say, but unfortunately you have to. Here's one of them:

Francis Ingham

Francis Ingham

MPs should not work for lobbying companies.

It's blindingly obvious, and it really is that simple. But as was revealed recently, a few MPs do just that. And even worse, some of them are former Ministers.

Now let me be clear. All of these MPs are acting within the law. And all of the companies they work for are acting within the law too. But just because something is legal, doesn't mean that it is proper.

It is patently ridiculous and frankly immoral that people who make the law should also be paid to lobby for changes to the law. You cannot be both a lobbyist and a legislator.

We even now have the absurdity of an MP being named on the government's own official register of lobbyists. The MP concerned says that he gives his remuneration to charity, so this doesn't matter. He's 100% wrong. It really does matter. And the fact that he doesn't realise this speaks volumes.

Parliamentarians and the wider political class bemoan the collapse in public confidence in, and respect, for their work. They complain that nobody seems to understand how hard they work. Nobody understands that they are motivated by the urge to change things for the better. That their work is -whatever their political views and however they vote - inspired by the best of motives.

Well. When they search for why the public doesn't hold them in the regard they should, MPs need to look no further than this sort of behaviour. By this kind of action, they prove how out of touch they are.

The PRCA is completely clear on this issue: our members are not allowed either to employ, or to pay, MPs.

Our members must declare the details of all of their public affairs clients four times a year. They must name all of their public affairs staff four times a year. They must say if any of those staff hold any role within a political party. They must abide by our professional charter and Public Affairs Code of Conduct.

And our members do so willingly. Because they know that the public rightly expect transparency and accountability - more so than ever before, and more so in the sphere of public affairs activity than in any other part of our industry.

Each company makes its own choices. And those choices shape its reputation. As the Bell Pottinger case of last month surely proved, reputation is a company's most important asset. The employment of MPs by lobbying companies diminishes the reputation of the companies concerned, and is yet another cancer on the reputation of our political system.

So let me end as I started. Some things shouldn't need to be said, but sadly have to be. This is one of them. If you are an MP, you shouldn't be paid by lobbying firms. It really is that simple.

Francis Ingham is director general at the PRCA, and chief executive officer at the International Communications Consultancy Organisation

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