Existing regimes often fail to ensure that people in government and politics work for the public interest and not for private gain. We need a legal, formal separation of public service from private enrichment. We need to hold former Ministers, former politicians and even former lawyers to much higher standards than exist at present.
When I first read the Conduct Committee’s report, I thought it was very sensible and almost boring. When I heard that there had been extensive lobbying against it, I could not see what the problem was at all. Now, having listened to this debate and heard from noble and learned Lords for whom I have huge respect, I understand the problem. However, as someone with no legal training and who considers herself a member of the public for these particular circumstances, I can assure the House that it is not a good look if we do not pass the Motion on the committee’s report today, and with a huge majority.
Of course, confidentiality is important but I see no argument for why foreign Governments should be owed any duty of confidentiality because they have hired a Member of the House. It does not make sense and I do not think that anyone outside the House of Lords, even perhaps other lawyers, would find it a good idea not to vote for this report. Quite honestly, it is a win for transparency at a moment when sleaze and corruption are flooding our political scene. We really cannot do anything but support the committee’s report.
I am very tempted by the amendment from Lord Balfe, because, of course, nothing ever goes far enough for me and I would like to see much more stringent measures. However, at the same time I was swayed by the comments from Lord Newby, about just supporting what the Conduct Committee has done because it has done it with a great deal of thought and consideration. Therefore, I will not vote for the amendment from Lord Balfe. I certainly will not vote for the amendment from Lord Garnier, because I thought his whole argument that we should wait and consider things more was quite nonsensical. Either we do it or not; obviously, we can do it later.
There is also a special provision for lawyers. Paragraph 18 says: “In recognition of the sensitivity of some legal proceedings we propose that lawyers should be required to disclose the identity of clients only once the relationship has entered the public domain”— that is very sensible— “or they have been paid (wholly or in part) for the work, whichever comes first. As with any interest, they would need to make the disclosure within one month of it becoming registrable, but they would have longer to register their fees, as set out in our last report.” The lawyers are covered here in the sense that if work is current, they do not need to declare it until these other circumstances exist.
Existing regimes often fail to ensure that people in government and politics work for the public interest and not for private gain. We need a legal, formal separation of public service from private enrichment. We need to hold former Ministers, former politicians and even former lawyers to much higher standards than exist at present. I am very happy to support the Conduct Committee’s report and very pleased to have been part of this debate.
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