MP questions Government lobbying plans after Leveson revelations

A Commons committee has seen an MP question whether the Government has put 'sufficient research' into its plans to regulate public affairs in light of the exposure of News Corporation lobbyist Frederic Michel.

Commons committee: questions whether the Government has put 'sufficient research' into its plans to regulate public affairs
Commons committee: questions whether the Government has put 'sufficient research' into its plans to regulate public affairs

The political and constitutional reform committee continued its inquiry into the Government’s proposals for a statutory register of lobbyists yesterday, on the same day that Rupert Murdoch took the stand for a second day at the Leveson Inquiry. Emails read out during the inquiry seemed to suggest that Michel, News Corporation’s senior vice-president of government affairs and public policy for Europe, enjoyed a close relationship with culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.

In the committee meeting, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central Tristram Hunt suggested that the existing proposals would not require Michel to register as he is an in-house lobbyist and questioned whether there had been 'sufficient research' by the Government ahead of the plans.

Professor Raj Chari of Trinity College Dublin, who was attending as a witness and has studied lobbying regulation across the world, refused to comment. However, Chari did suggest that the Canadian system of lobbying regulation could be ‘a good model’ to start from.

Comparing the current government proposals for registration to others around the world, Chari said they were ‘quite narrow’ in terms of who was covered by the legislation, not covering in-house lobbyists but only focusing on consultancies. Chari added that the details for registration were not as ‘onerous’ as in countries such as the US, where spending details needed to be disclosed.

The words of Hunt and Chari place more pressure on minister for political and constitutional reform Mark Harper to widen his register to include all kinds of lobbyists.

Meanwhile, on BBC’s Question Time last night Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes joined calls for an inquiry into whether Hunt breached the ministerial code of conduct during his dealings with News International during the BSkyB takeover bid.

Labour has demanded to see emails and text messages between Hunt and his former special adviser Adam Smith. Shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman said it was not credible that Hunt was unaware of the extent of Smith’s contact with Michel that was exposed in emails published by the Leveson Inquiry.

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