Cabinet minister Mark Harper was speaking at an event held by the PRCA at Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ London offices to discuss the consultation into public affairs that he is leading.
The meeting followed news of Conservative Party co-treasurer Cruddas, who resigned over the weekend after it was revealed he was offering access to the Prime Minister and Chancellor to donors for up to £250,000.
Speaking at the event, Harper dismissed Cruddas’ claims as ‘nonsense’ while admitting they were ‘not very helpful’ to his consultation process.
Harper’s consultation, which follows similar outrages over lobbying such as a sting published in The Independent against Bell Pottinger last year, is set to be completed by 13 April, and is expected to lead to a statutory register of lobbyists.
During the meeting, Harper floated a suggestion that the Government may not be allowed to deal with lobbyists who are not on the register, adding: ‘That’s very powerful, because it puts the others out of business if they’re not complying with the rules.’
Lobbyists at the meeting called for the consultation to be opened up to in-house advisers, and for any register to be focused on those carrying out ‘the act of lobbying’ and not just lobbyists – which could also include accountants, management consultants and lawyers.
Harper agreed that those people should also be included, adding that he would ‘go away and look at’ the consultation in that regard.
Harper did not rule out UKPAC running the register after the consultation, although he added he had heard ‘mixed views from people’ about UKPAC.
A bill is expected to be passed during this Parliament, following the consultation.