§ 29. Mr. Willie W. Hamilton
asked the Lord Privy Seal what recent representations he has received on the amount of parliamentary lobbying by outside interests and the number of hon. Members being retained by such outside interests; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
I have received a number of representations on this topic, and a report on parliamentary lobbying has also been made recently by the Select Committee on Members' Interests.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Select Committee report to which he referred fudged the issue posed in my question? Is he not concerned about the rapid growth of what I call parliamentary political prostitution, because hon. Members — especially Conservative Members — are selling their services to outside interests for unknown sums of money? That is bringing Parliament into great disrepute. Will he given an undertaking that the report will be debated in the House at a very early date?
§ Mr. Biffen
I take at once the concern that the hon. Gentleman expresses, which I imagine is in the context of the fact that the current Register shows that 120 Members of Parliament are now parliamentary consultants—an increase of 50 per cent. on the Register for the previous year. However, I doubt whether the debate is elevated by partisan accusations. I shall, of course, consider his point about a debate.
§ Mr. Marlow
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are a small number of Opposition Members who move heaven and earth to ensure that large numbers of immigrants are allowed to stop in this country? Will he investigate whether they are doing that with the best parliamentary interests in mind, or whether other things are at the back of their minds?
§ Mr. Biffen
I think that that question goes somewhat wide of the original question. I do not think that I would encourage a detached assessment of the problem if I followed that line.