The bicameral working group, chaired by Rt Hon Jack Straw and consisting of Members of both Houses of Parliament, was set up by the Speaker, Rt Hon John Bercow MP and Lord Speaker, Rt Hon Baroness D’Souza CMG.
The Working Group looked at a number of areas including:
- the implications of the growing number of APGs;
- the extent to which there is the risk of confusion with formally constituted select committees of both Houses;
- whether APGs should be required to publish minutes and accounts; and
- the funding of APG activities.
The Working Group found APGs are an effective way for Members of both Houses to inform themselves about specific subjects, to respond to outside concerns, and to have direct contact with external audiences.
The Working Group recommends, however, that more coherent registration arrangements are put in place for APGs. Pointing to the receipt of material benefits by APGs from companies, charities and other organisations, the Working Group suggests a regular examination of registration rules is necessary.
The Working Group finds that greater transparency is required, both in terms of the funding of APGs and the rules on how they present themselves to the wider world. The Working Group makes a number of recommendations, including:
- the nomination of a Panel of Members of both Houses to advise on the formation of new APGs to ensure groups are not formed which duplicate each other’s work;
- APGs should be required to prepare an income and expenditure statement. The threshold should also be lowered for the registration of benefits. External funding should be permissible but a strict obligation should be placed on APGs to be transparent about the resources provided;
- the “Associate” Parliamentary Group category should be abolished;
- a table listing the number of Groups for which every Member and Peer is a qualifying member should be included in the APG register;
- the portcullis should not be used by APGs on reports, websites, or correspondence to ensure APGs are not confused with official Parliamentary Committees and every APG report should carry a statement that the group is not an official Parliamentary body;
- higher eligibility requirements should be introduced to qualify for an APG Parliamentary pass.
Rt Hon Jack Straw, Chair of the Speakers’ Working Group on All-Party Groups, said:
"All-Party Groups play a valuable role in helping Members of the House of Commons and House of Lords engage with individuals and organisations outside of Parliament.
However, greater transparency is required; not least to ensure that APGs and their reports are not seen as official Parliamentary bodies. Reform is necessary and we believe MPs and Peers will welcome the changes in this area which are set out in the report."
Joint statement from the Speaker, Rt Hon John Bercow MP and Lord Speaker, Rt Hon Baroness D'Souza CMG:
"We would like to thank the Working Group for their efforts in producing this valuable report. We want to ensure all-party-group arrangements are framed in a way that ensures APGs are appropriately managed and supported and this report makes some valuable recommendations for the way forward.
The report will be forwarded to the Standards and Privileges, Administration and Liaison Committees in the House of Commons in the first instance to look at how the recommendations might be implemented."