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Committee on Standards calls for new package of reforms to regulate APPGs and safeguard Parliament

3 May 2022

The Committee on Standards publishes a major new report with recommendations to improve the regulation of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) and safeguard Parliament from improper lobbying and hostile state actors.

The detailed report comes following a long-running investigation into the activities of APPGs and their governance. The report includes a range of potential proposals to tighten the rules for the informal groups, and stop them being used as a vehicle for improper access or influence by lobbyists and hostile foreign states.

The report notes “the expert evidence we have received to our inquiry shows that the risk of improper access and influence by hostile foreign actors through APPGs is real, though difficult to measure.” The Committee also warns that “there is also evidence that this risk has already materialised.”

The report also reflects on the dramatic increase in the number of APPGs in recent years, noting that this has made it more difficult to monitor adherence to the rules, and “created the conditions for inappropriate influence and access”. The report goes on to warn that “if left unchecked, APPGs could represent the next great parliamentary scandal, with commercial entities effectively buying access to and influence of parliamentarians and decision-makers.”

Key recommendations

The Committee proposes four approaches to address the current threats posed by APPGs, as well as a range of potential measures to tackle the issue head on:

  1. Reduce the number of APPGs. Now at 744, the sheer number of Groups makes improper access and influence more likely and makes monitoring compliance with the rules more challenging.
  2. Further enhance transparency. Particularly of funding sources and the provision of external staff or secretariats.
  3. Stricter restrictions on secretariats/APPG staff. For example, potentially banning secretariats funded or provided by foreign governments.
  4. Bring in reforms to make enforcing the rules easier. This could include creating a more rigorous statement of an APPG chair’s responsibilities.

The Committee outlines a range of potential measures for the House to consider that, if implemented, would greatly reduce the risks posed by APPGs. The measures are set out in full in the Committee’s report.

Chair's comment

Chris Bryant MP, Chair of the Committee on Standards, said:

“All Party Parliamentary Groups are really useful, but they must never be a backdoor means of peddling influence around the corridors of power or pursuing a commercial interest.

“Today’s report represents a wake-up call for us all. The evidence we have gathered is chilling and points towards an urgent need for the House to take action.

“We have set out four ways to address the risks posed by APPGs, as well as a range of possible measures to regulate them, and ensure they continue to enhance – rather than endanger – the integrity of Parliament.

“Parliament always has, and always will, be a target for hostile foreign states. But with better regulation and transparency around these informal groups, we can ensure they continue to make a positive contribution to our democracy.

“We want to hear from individuals and groups both inside and outside the House on the options we set out before we make final recommendations.”

The Committee will now consult on the proposals ahead of preparing a final report with recommendations for the House.

Further information

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