London, October 12 : The UK Committee on Standards on Monday announced that a new inquiry will be conducted into All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) including the risk of the group being used for access by foreign governments, into the rules for and regulation of the unofficial groups.
It will be the first in-depth investigation into the informal cross-party groups since the Standards Committee previously reviewed them in 2013, according to an official statement.
The APPGs are informal cross-party groups that have no official status within the UK Parliament. They are run by and for Members of the Commons and Lords, though many choose to involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities.
The Committee said it is particularly interesting to investigate– the value and benefits of APPGs to the House, transparency and appropriateness of funding of APPG activities and secretarial support, the role of external secretariats to APPGs, the risk of APPGs being used for access by lobbyists, other organisations or by foreign governments, and how any conflicts of interests arising can be managed and use of Parliamentary passes by a staff exclusively supporting APPGs.
It will also investigate “Financial governance and controls, other governance and compliance issues, including assurance that APPGs are meeting relevant employment law and data protection laws, the status of APPGs within the House, including the risk of confusion with select committees, and branding of APPG activities and publications, who should be accountable for ensuring an APPG comply with the rules, how APPGs can be better supported to comply with the rules and the proportionality and effectiveness of current requirements on holding of AGMs and formal meetings, and the election of officers.”
According to the statement, the previous inquiry considered a wide range of aspects of APPG regulation, and in its report proposed a number of changes to the rules on APPGs which were agreed by the House in 2014. That inquiry followed a report by the Speakers’ Working Group led by the former Leader of the House, Rt Hon Jack Straw MP.
Since the previous inquiry into APPGs, there has been continual growth in the number of them operating across Parliament, with more than 600 APPGs now active, the statement said.
“The unofficial groups can represent anything from subjects such as Acquired Brain Injury to Archaeology, with country groups aiming to foster improved relations or better understanding with other countries,” it added.
Chris Bryant MP, Chair of the Committee on Standards, said that all-Party Parliamentary Groups may be informal, but they can play a vital role in the work of Parliament and our democracy.
“These all-encompassing groups draw attention to issues and concerns of great national importance that otherwise may go under the radar. They cover everything from acquired brain injury – which I Chair myself – to arts, health and wellbeing,” he said
“This new inquiry from the Standards Committee will take a closer look at the rules and regulation of these groups, and will investigate how they can contribute to the high standards of conduct within the House,” he added.