Writing on the ‘Central Lobby’ section of Politics Home, we see today Mark Pritchard furthering the case for the existence of All Party Parliamentary Groups. This article follows Pritchard being ‘cleared’ by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, as a result of a Daily Telegraph article about his Albanian business affairs, the Commissioner ruling that there was “insufficient evidence” for an inquiry.
It is possible to make an argument both for and against APPGs and likewise trips abroad in relation to the work of an APPG, but there still remains questions related to the activities of such groups.
- Should it not be mandatory that Minutes are kept of AGM’s and other meetings; and likewise should it not be mandatory that accounts are likewise available?
- Should it not be mandatory that an MP using ‘his time’ while on an APPG trip - as against ‘APPG time’ – to further his business interests, be asked to make a payment equivalent to the return airfare and accommodation costs?
- Should it not be mandatory that where overseas trips are undertaken at the expense of UK taxpayers, there should be introduced an element of ‘Referism’?
According to the Standards and Financial Interests section of the Parliament website: MPs and Members of the Lords must declare certain financial interests, the purpose of which is to provide information on any financial or non-financial benefit received by a MP or Member of the Lords which might reasonably be thought by others to influence their actions, speeches or votes in Parliament or influence their actions taken in their capacity as a Member.
This raises the question of whether or not Pritchard on any of the trips abroad as part of his being a member of an APPG, conducted any business on behalf of his company(s); in which case, if he did, did he not receive a ‘benefit’? Yet one sees no mention of this in his recent declaration of interests (pp233-234) – and one also wonders whether any declaration of this ‘benefit’ was declared to HMRC.
As part of his defence for the existence of APPGs, Pritchard makes reference to the need of MPs to be better informed about the world in which they live, pointing out that in his opinion MPs need to be local, national and global. A reasonable aspiration one would agree; but, I would suggest, a total waste of an MPs time at present when so much of their ability to affect all three have been outsourced to the European Union.
As can be seen the world of APPGs is one of ‘murk’ and ‘mystery’ – at which point one can only wonder what happened to another Coalition promise, one of transparency as embodied in the ‘Programme for Government‘. Did not the Foreward mention a shared ambition to clean up Westminster and extending transparency to every area of public life?
Turning to the 6 Demands it could be envisaged that the details of an MPs selection and conditions of employment may be decided by the electorate of their local area or county; and being embodied in a local constitution. It is logical that if MPs terms and conditions of employment are to be set locally then they should be paid from local funds, rather than a central ‘pot’. At which point it would then be for an MPs constituents to decide whether he or she should be allowed to supplement his/her income with a ‘bit on the side’. Now that would provide transparency!