PoliticsHome reports that according to a Downing Street spokesman, Gordon Brown "is satisfied that there is no need for further government
investigation into allegations that Stephen Byers tried to use his
influence as an ex-minister to lobby".
spokesman said that there was no need for an inquiry since the
departments headed by Lords Mandelson and Adonis, to which Byers
referred in the secretly-recorded interview, were clear that there
had been no impropriety.
Brown's spokesman did say that Byers had "done exactly
the right thing by referring himself to the parliamentary authorities”.
So on the one hand Brown accepts that Byers' behaviour warrants investigation by the parliamentary authorities, whilst suggesting that all is fine and dandy at the departments which the very same MP has been boasting about influencing? Not good enough – and I dare say the Conservative front bench will keep piling on the pressure.
Doubtless more reaction will follow later.
Eric Pickles has responded thus:
“It is outrageous that the Prime Minister has ruled out an investigation into these extremely serious allegations before the programme containing them has even been broadcast. People have the right to know whether senior Cabinet Ministers like Lord Mandelson and Lord Adonis have been complicit in the scandal. Gordon Brown is the man who wanted the Iraq Inquiry in private and who misled the public over defence cuts, people will wonder what he has to hide this time. This looks increasingly like a cover up at the heart of government.”
It has now been confirmed that Harriet Harman will have to come to the Commons at 3.30pm to give a statement on the matter.
In the Commons, Harriet Harman repeated the claim from the Prime Minister's spokesman that there was nothing to investigate:
"The Prime Minister today sought the Cabinet Secretary's assurance that departments had looked into these claims. Permanent secretaries… have assured the Cabinet Secretary that they are satisified that there has been no improper influence on Government policy or ministerial decisions. I want to reassure MPs and the public that ministers act in the public interest. It is an absolutely fundamental part of the duties of their office."
She went on to announce that a register of lobbyists would be set up on a statutory footing:
"There should be a legal register of lobbyists which would require them to register as lobbyists and to register the identity of clients on whose behalf they are acting. This is necessary to give the public confidence that this is the law and it will be complied with."
Responding for the Conservatives, Sir George Young called on the Government to treat the allegations about Byers et al "with the seriousness they deserve":
"The sight of former Cabinet ministers offering to lobby Government on behalf of corporate interests for private gain – in one case as a kind of "cab for hire" for up to £5,000 a day – will have deeply appalled the public and further undermined trust in politics at a moment when we all hoped we were turning the corner. The public will now expect the Government to treat these allegations with the seriousness they deserve. But rather than clarifying the facts, Downing Street appears to be doing the opposite."
Many MPs also noted that the Government was forced into announcing its plans for the register by the weekend's events, rather than by design.
What a difference a day makes… BBC reporting that Byers, Hoon and Hewitt have just been suspended from the Parliamenatry Labour Party by Chief Whip Nick Brown.