Clement-Jones, a partner at a law firm that operates a small lobbying practice, att-acked the ‘weak’ bill’s narrow focus on third-party lobbyists’ interaction with ministers and permanent secretaries.
‘It’s ludicrous to limit it to ministers and permanent secretaries,’ he said. ‘I could mount a perfectly respectable campaign without going anywhere near a minister – what about a special adviser, or mid-tier civil servants or somebody who runs a government agency?
‘There’s going to be an unholy row when it comes into Parliament,’ he added. ‘In many ways it would be better not to have a bill than have one at all if it’s going to be weak as this.’
Clement-Jones, who was chair of the government relations practice at DLA Piper from 1999 to 2010, said that the bill left unanswered questions over whether legal firms would have to sign up.
‘We have to have a statutory register otherwise the usual code of conduct that is applied by the solicitors’ regulatory authority, which is that you don’t reveal your clients, is not overridden.’
His comments come as political and constitutional ref-orm minister Chloe Smith insisted the register would cover law firms and management consultancies, but only at the registrar’s discretion.
The commons committee charged with overseeing pol-itical reform has also hit out at the bill, saying the Government had ‘shown a lack of res-pect for Parliament’ in its rush to publish the draft bill.
The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee pledged to focus on influencing MPs’ responses to the lobbying bill after it was denied scrutiny of draft legislation.