NEWS: Nolan vote promises windfall for lobbyists

While some MPs are reeling from Monday’s House of Commons vote to disclose outside earnings and ban advocacy, lobby firms are looking forward to the prospect of increased business.

While some MPs are reeling from Monday’s House of Commons vote to

disclose outside earnings and ban advocacy, lobby firms are looking

forward to the prospect of increased business.



Richard Faulkner, managing director of Westminster Communications -

which ended its relationship with four MPs last year - predicted the

vote would mean ‘a lot more work’ for government relations

consultancies.



‘It means clients, who might have been thinking about putting an MP on a

retainer, will realise they can get much better value and much better

service from a consultancy,’ he said.



Reaction to the vote from agencies and companies which still retain MPs

was varied. Sir Tim Bell, chairman of Lowe Bell Communications said: ‘We

have always abided by the rules and continue to abide by the new rules.

It does not follow that they are good rules.’ And he declared himself

very happy with the company’s arrangement with Peter Luff MP.



The rules on disclosure apply only to earnings from work solely arising

due to membership of the House of Commons - presenting a possible get-

out for those MPs who can prove that part of their earnings derive from

their previous occupation.



Luff, a PR man and consultant to Lowe Bell for many years prior to his

election in 1992, told PR Week he would seek advice from the new

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards on ‘how I can best comply with

both the letter and the spirit of the rules’.



Chris Davies, head of government affairs at BAA, said he expected the

firm would not replace its retained MP, Jack Aspinwall, when he stands

down at the next election. And he said the new rules ‘must be good news’

for lobbying firms as they ‘took a competitor [MPs] out of the market’.



Peter Bingle, managing director of The Communication Group, confirmed

the agency is reviewing its own relationship with retained consultant

Anthony Steen MP ‘in the light of Monday’s vote’. He predicted a boom

for lobbyists as companies either build-up their own in-house teams or

made greater use of consultancies.



However, Charles Miller, secretary of the APPC - which has banned

financial links with MPs (although not peers and MEPs) - sounded a note

of caution.



‘I think there is relatively little use of MPs for fixing,’ he said.

‘They are mainly used for advice and no doubt there will be many MPs on

the phone to their paymasters telling them that, in fact, nothing has

changed.’



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