Some have dismissed John Cryer’s work as “a war on lobbying”, but the Labour MP insists that his Registration of Commercial Lobbying Interests Bill is not designed with any such intention. “Lobbying is perfectly legitimate,” he says. “I don’t want to stop it. I want to make it more transparent.”
John received multiple nominations for MP of the Month following his work to ensure that the industry is correctly regulated. “There’s a widespread feeling that this could be the next big scandal in British politics,” he says. “David Cameron has said so more than once, although he hasn’t done a lot to address it so far.”
His warnings have already come partly true. In recent months, we’ve heard high-profile stories, and witnessed Liam Fox’s resignation from the Ministry of Defence, after questions arose about Adam Werritty.
John admits that he doesn’t know what effect his 10-minute rule bill would have had on the Werritty situation, especially as Werritty wasn’t a lobbyist. “He probably would have been affected,” he claims, “but I don’t think anyone is clear exactly what his role was in government and at the MoD.”
As John himself admits, his Registration of Commercial Lobbying Interests Bill is unlikely to come to fruition. It had its second reading at the end of January. “The likelihood is that [the bill] will fall, because there’s such a backlog of private members’ bills and 10-minute rule bills,” he says. But, he claims, the ethos still stands. “The test of my Bill would be commercial gain – if you’re lobbying for personal gain, you would have to register.”
“John has been looking into registration of the lobbying industry since his recent return to Parliament, and won’t fall at the first hurdle,” says one Labour MP who nominated him.
This might have something to do with John’s father, Bob, who was also an MP. A friend of John’s remembers Bob introducing the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill through Parliament in 1988: “Lobbyists were running riot around Westminster at the time, trying to help kill off the bill. Many were hiring the bars and restaurants in the Palace of Westminster to do it.”
John won’t give up with his campaign. He even offered it to the prime minister as a template for the government’s legislation. “I’m a generous sort of bloke, so he can have it and get it onto the statute book”, he told Cameron. The prime minister responded: “I’m a generous sort of bloke too, so I can tell the honourable gentleman that the lobbying proposals will be published within the next month.”
Now the government has launched a consultation, which closes on 13 April, on introducing a statutory register of journalists. It focuses mainly on commercial lobbying firms; only those acting on behalf of a third-party client would be covered by the register. “If you’re a multinational company, and have your own lobbying department, you’re not going to have to register anything [under government proposals], which means people are going to fall through the net,” Cryer says.
John intends to write to the deputy prime minister to tell him “where he’s going wrong” with the consultation. His suggestions include a three-monthly update of what the register must contain, and sanctions if lobbyists do not meet obligations. He adds: “You should have to include any parliamentarians you’ve met – ministers, backbenchers and peers – and to inventory all the money you’ve spent on dinners, or whatever you’re doing to lobby MPs.”
He believes that there’s a political element to the consultation. “The government will want to make sure trade unions are caught by [the consultation]. They’d love to have trade unions included. A lot of their friends are lobbyists, and a lot of former MPs are lobbyists.”
But he says that if trade unions were included, they would come out of it “quite well”. “They won’t have spent any money, or have had many meetings with ministers. Trade unions and NGOs don’t lobby for commercial gain.”
John Cryer is confident, however, that “elements” of his work will be in the final bill. “The point of my bill was… not to expose commercial lobbyists, but for them to be accountable,” he explains. “Lobbying is perfectly legitimate, as long as it’s all above board and transparent, and ministers, MPs and peers are accountable… I’m not in a war against lobbyists.” But for a pure battle of persistence, he is our MP of the Month.
From the editor
The Speaker’s attention helps any Commons-based campaign and that is exactly what John Cryer achieved when he recently called for an oral statement on a statutory register of lobbyists. “It is an extremely important consultation process, on what, as he rightly says, is an extremely important matter…” replied John Bercow. It is for his perseverance that Cryer is our MP of the Month. You do not have to agree with his stance on the lobbying industry, but his praise-worthy tenacity is a resolve that began with his MP father, and will now be seen through under Cryer’s time in Parliament. Will the government’s work on lobbying go far enough for his liking? Maybe not. But it is a step towards ensuring that democracy is never damaged because MPs looked the other way.
Mike Weatherley - Conservative MP for Hove and Portslade
Mike Weatherley has hit back at the cynics who claim Parliament is out of touch. His competition ‘Rock The House’ seeks to raise the political profiles of intellectual property rights and live music.
Busted’s Charlie Simpson and Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan have lent their support to the competition, now in its second year, and Alice Cooper has gone as far as saying it’s “the greatest thing in the world”.
The competition culminates in a battle of the bands on the Commons Terrace. Last year, X Factor’s Katie Waissel and Feargal Sharkey were among the attendees.
The event is commended for its innovative approach to raising parliamentary awareness of intellectual property rights, engaging the public – and allowing MPs to do some celeb-spotting.
Jane Ellison - Conservative MP for Battersea
As chairman of the newly-launched all-party parliamentary group on female genital mutilation, Jane Ellison will be a driving force behind encouraging the government’s engagement with this issue. Already, the group has over 50 members.
Research shows that around 20,000 girls in the UK are at risk of female genital mutilation and 66,000 women and girls are already living with the consequences. However, Jane fears that these 2001 figures are outdated and her APPG will be encouraging the government to support a new study to assess the scale of the problem. Part of the 2010 intake, Jane has wasted no time in addressing this, leading Lynne Featherstone to commend the group’s “unified approach to ensure that female genital mutilation remains on the political agenda”.
Gregg McClymont - Labour MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East
For his meteoric rise through the Parliamentary Labour Party since election in 2010, this politician and academic should be praised. One shadow cabinet minister described him as “one of the most intellectually innovative thinkers of the new 2010 MPs”.
Cumbernauld born and bred, Gregg’s close connection with his constituency was interrupted by his prodigious academic endeavour, studying history at Glasgow, Philadelphia and Oxford.
Moving from academia to frontline politics in 2010, he quickly made a name for himself by standing up for his constituents on housing benefit and arguing for stronger safeguards following Royal Mail privatisation. Now shadow pensions minister, Gregg is an important intellectual force as the Labour Party tries to find its way back to government.