All-party Parliamentary Groups

Part of Deferred Divisions – in the House of Commons at 7:51 pm on 13th May 2014.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 7:51 pm, 13th May 2014

On behalf of the Government, I support the motion before us in the name of the Chair of the Committee on Standards. Kevin Barron has set out very clearly the conclusions of his Committee’s report and the effect of the motion before the House. All-party parliamentary groups have a distinct and important role to play in the work of Parliament. They provide a recognised forum in which Members of both Houses can meet together and with individuals from outside Parliament to share information and exchange ideas on issues of mutual interest. This is a healthy process. Indeed, the free flow of ideas and information between the lawmakers and citizens is an essential part of any properly functioning democracy.

There is a huge range of APPGs, the origins and purposes of which may range from a shared interest in a particular country or activity to a campaign for a good cause or policy objective. There is no problem with that. What is important—I would say essential—is that in respect of all such groups, there is transparency as to their purpose, membership and support, particularly any financial support, as well as accountability for their actions. That is what I hope will be achieved through the changes we are approving today.

I fully support the intention of the new resolution to make it clear that each chair of an APPG will be responsible and accountable for their group’s adherence to the rules governing all-party parliamentary groups. Those rules must be taken seriously and complied with scrupulously. The fact that significant breaches will be subject to investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and subsequent consideration by the Standards Committee should provide an effective deterrent.

I am also happy to endorse the proposal to give the Committee on Standards the job of updating the guide to the rules on APPGs and making minor changes to the rules from time to time as the need arises without having to bring such changes before the House for approval.

The House can have confidence in the Committee to entrust it with this function. Indeed such detailed changes are much better done in Committee than on the Floor of the House. The House should be grateful to the Standards Committee for its work on revising the rules and the guide to the rules on APPGs. This will serve to increase the confidence of the public in how Parliament conducts itself and the confidence of Members that their engagement with APPGs is not only valuable in itself but beyond reproach. I commend the motion to the House.