Press release 05th Apr 2023

APPG recommendations welcome - but further changes needed to protect Parliament from foreign interference

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April 5, 2023 - Transparency International UK welcomes recommendations to improve how APPGs (All-Party Parliamentary Groups) are run. They will address some vulnerabilities that make these groups backdoors for foreign influence in Westminster. But more needs to be done, however, to prevent them from being a vehicle for inducements for MPs to support particular foreign interests. 

Parliament’s cross-party Committee on Standards today published a series of recommendations to make APPGs more transparent, including a ban on foreign governments covering their running costs via secretariats. 

Transparency International UK’s research from January 2022 has previously shown there were at least two APPGs sponsored by foreign governments, and the funding for five others was unknown. Proper due diligence by MPs and peers is essential when engaging those connected with corrupt and repressive regimes, particularly where a relationship with an APPG could give the impression of a level of respectability and acceptance to other parliamentarians.

But the Committee stopped short of recommending an outright ban on parliamentarians accepting paid foreign trips from APPGs, something we argued in our evidence poses a clear corruption risk. 

Overseas trips sponsored either directly or indirectly by corrupt and repressive regimes may present the perception - or reality - that parliamentarians’ judgements and actions are influenced by the malign intent of their hosts. Visits by UK parliamentarians may also give undue legitimacy to the regime in-country.

 

Rose Whiffen, Senior Research Officer at Transparency International UK, said:

“These welcome recommendations will go some way to making All-Party Parliamentary Groups more transparent and addressing the glaring risk of foreign governments using them to secure privileged access to the parliamentary estate. While APPGs can help inform debate, time and time again we see examples of MPs and peers exercising poor judgement by accepting all-expenses-paid trips from regimes with highly questionable records on corruption and human rights. As well as implementing the Committee’s recommendations in full, Parliament should use this opportunity to go further and restrict foreign governments’ funding of overseas trips for MPs and peers.”