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Lobbying for reward or consideration (the advocacy rule)

This paragraph (or sub-paragraphs) have been updated, added or deleted since publication of the 2019 edition. Any sub-paragraphs updated since the 2019 edition can be highlighted by clicking ‘Highlight updates’ below. The most recent updates to this publication were made on August 2021. See the summaries and schedules for each successive update from the Home page.

5.20The holding of outside interests by Members is a matter of controversy, which received attention from the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) in 2009 and again in 2017.1 The CSPL concluded in 2009 that ‘MPs should remain free to undertake some paid activity outside the House of Commons, provided it is kept within reasonable limits and there is transparency about the nature of the activity and the amount of time spent on it’.2 This remains the basis of the current rules.2A

The question of outside interests can be complex and the House has repeatedly tried to distinguish in its rules between representation and corruption. On 6 November 1995 the House agreed to the following resolution relating to lobbying for reward or consideration:

‘It is inconsistent with the dignity of the House, with the duty of a Member to his constituents, and with the maintenance of the privilege of freedom of speech, for any Member of this House to enter into any contractual agreement with an outside body, controlling or limiting the Member's complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament or stipulating that he shall act in any way as the representative of such outside body in regard to any matters to be transacted in Parliament; the duty of a Member being to his constituents and to the country as a whole, rather than to any particular section thereof: and that in particular no Members of the House shall, in consideration of any remuneration, fee, payment or reward or benefit in kind, direct or indirect, which the Member or any member of his or her family has received or expects to receive—
  1. advocate or initiate any cause or matter on behalf of any outside body or individual, or
  2. urge any other Member of either House of Parliament, including Ministers, to do so,
by means of any speech, Question, Motion, introduction of a Bill or Amendment to a Motion or a Bill.’

In May 2002 the resolution was amended by including approaches to Ministers and civil servants within its scope.3 The resolution extends and reinforces an earlier resolution of the House in 1947 that a Member may not enter into any contractual arrangement which fetters the Member's complete independence in Parliament by any undertaking to press some particular point of view on behalf of an outside interest.4 Nor, by virtue of the same resolution, may an outside body (or person) use any contractual arrangement with a Member of Parliament as an instrument by which it controls, or seeks to control, their conduct in Parliament, or to punish that Member for any parliamentary action.5

Members must not initiate or participate in a proceeding or an approach to Ministers, other Members, or public officials that seeks to confer any financial or material benefit on a person or organisation that they or a family member have received, or expect to receive, a reward or consideration from.6

Initiating and participating in proceedings includes: tabling and asking a parliamentary question, including asking a supplementary question; presenting a Bill or petition; initiating or seeking to initiate a debate including making applications for Westminster Hall, Backbench Business or adjournment debates; tabling or moving any motion or amendment, or adding one’s name to a motion or amendment; making a speech in the Chamber or a committee, intervening in a debate, statement or other proceeding or asking a supplementary question to another Member's question; and proposing a Report, or moving an Amendment to a Report or asking a question of witnesses, in a select committee.7

The restrictions on lobbying apply for 12 months after the benefit was received and can be lifted at any time if the Member repays the full value of the benefit.8 The restrictions do not apply in the case of approaching a Minister or a public official in the exceptional circumstance where a Member has evidence of a serious wrong or substantial injustice.9

Footnotes

  1. 1. CSPL report on MPs' Expenses and Allowances, Cm 7724, November 2009, ch 11; review announced March 2017.
  2. 2. CSPL report on MPs' Expenses and Allowances, Cm 7724, November 2009, ch 11.
  3. 2A. See para 5.8 for rules on contracts.
  4. 3. CJ (2001–02) 557.
  5. 4. Committee of Privileges, Report, HC 118 (1946–47) paras 11–15.
  6. 5. Second Report of the Committee of Privileges, HC 634 (1974–75) para 3.
  7. 6. HC (2022–23) 1083 Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, Chapter 3, para 2.
  8. 7. HC (2022–23) 1083 Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, Chapter 3, para 9. This rule does not apply where a Member, who has been successful in the ballot for Private Members' Bills, receives free or subsidised assistance from an organisation connected with the purposes of the bill, provided that there is no pre-existing financial relationship between the Member and the body in question.
  9. 8. HC (2022–23) 1083 Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, Chapter 3, para 8. This was increased from six months in 2022.
  10. 9. HC (2022–23) 1083 Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, Chapter 3, para 7. Such an approach may only be made on a single occasion, and the Member must declare their interest and make clear that they are presenting evidence of a serious wrong or substantial injustice.