THREE Tory ministers including the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, are listed as paid-up members of the European Research Group (ERG) despite it being an apparent breach of the ministerial code.

Media Minister John Whittingdale and Robert Courts, a Junior Transport Minister, are also on the list, according to an investigation by online news site Byline Times, which said the ministerial code bans members from becoming “associated with non-public organisations whose objectives may in any degree conflict with Government policy”.

The ERG has been described as “the most influential [research group] in recent political history”, and is part-funded by subscriptions from MPs’ office budgets.

Each MP pays £2000 a year out of the public purse for access to briefings and materials.

Filings to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), show the ERG has 35 members in 2020-21.

ERG is a “pooled” research resource for MPs and as such does not publish its briefings to the public. The research is, however, supposed to be non-party political.

It was seen as the driving force behind arguments for a hard Brexit and “instrumental” in the downfall of Theresa May as she tried to find a compromise deal for the UK to leave the EU.

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Tory MP Rees-Mogg boasted then that the ERG was “the opposition” to May and her Chequers agreement.

Now Labour MP Ben Bradshaw has called for a Cabinet Office investigation after Byline Times revealed the ERG had received £230,000 in taxpayer-funded expenses since 2016 – including £70,000 last year.

“After years of refusing to disclose their membership – despite being publicly funded – we now know,” said Bradshaw.

“The ERG is no ordinary research service, it is a lobby that has brought down a Prime Minister, pushed for a disastrous hard Brexit, the effects of which this country is suffering right now, and skewed our parliamentary debate in favour of so-called ‘libertarian’ politics. This revelation raises major questions for the three ministers who were sending taxpayers’ cash to the ERG last year. [It] appears to be a clear breach of the ministerial code.

“For an organisation whose members have frequently attacked what they see as wastes of taxpayer cash, the ERG seems very happy to claim large sums from the public while refusing to publish its research.

“It is time for this party within a party – Tory members’ words, not mine – to open up its books, or stop taking money from the public to push its agenda.”

Tom Brake, director of the campaign group Unlock Democracy, said the ERG must be more transparent.

“This is an organisation which has actively promoted an alternative line within the Conservative party (providing briefings, suggested questions and other research materials) to that taken by the Conservative Government,” he said.

“It is hard to see how some of those activities could be anything other than party political. This is not allowed under the IPSA’s rules.

“What is even stranger is the financial support apparently provided to the ERG, funded by the taxpayer, by a number of ministers.

"Given the ERG’s past activities it is highly likely ministers are helping to fund a faction that will have no qualms in the future about aggressively seeking to undermine the same ministers’ policies.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson told Byline Times: “The ERG is a parliamentary research service recognised by the IPSA, which provides briefings to MPs on issues relating to the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union ... All ministers are bound by the principles of collective responsibility.”

Neither of the ministers who are members of the ERG responded to The National’s request for comment.