Defence secretary Philip Hammond has said that retired military officers could see access to Government figures ‘shut down’ after The Sunday Times filmed top military brass offering contact to key figures around military procurement.
The sting has renewed demands that any upcoming register of lobbying interests also includes in-house lobbyists as well as those working in agencies.
The CIPR said in response to the news that it ‘has long argued for universal transparency’ around lobbying and emphasised that ‘access should be sought using the correct channels.’
It appealed to Chloe Smith MP, who has taken over from Mark Harper in overseeing efforts to implement a statutory lobbying register.
A statement read: ‘The CIPR urges Chloe Smith to engage with the industry, following widespread condemnation of initial statutory register proposals, following widespread criticism that it would not include in-house lobbyists such as those retired MoD personnel seen on the Sunday Times film.’
The Sunday Times piece alleged that retired officers, including ex-MoD procurement chief Lt Gen Richard Applegate, admitted they had lobbied around military deals while in purdah.
Video footage from reporters posing as defence industry figures shows former Defence Academy head Lt Gen Sir John Kiszely saying he would talk to the Prime Minister at a Remembrance Day event.
The paper also includes conversations with naval fleet commander Adm Sir Trevor Soar and former head of the Army, Lord Dannatt around gaining access. All men deny wrongdoing.
Chris Rumfitt, MD of public affairs at Edelman, backed the CIPR’s calls, saying that ‘this is the perfect example of why a lobbying register needs to capture all of those involved with lobbying, not just multi client agencies.’
One public affairs adviser who has worked on a number of defence account also questioned how useful such contacts would be.
He said: 'If any company wants to throw good money after bad by hiring someone they think can secure contracts with a quiet word over a gin and tonic then they are deluded.'
'If the kit doesn't meet the requirement the military won't buy it so the job of the military advisor is to understand what that requirement is when the MOD itself isn't always sure.'
He suggested that Soar and Applegate will be 'the most worried', adding that this 'isn't the fault of lobbyists but of those who used to be lobbied and who are out office trying to stay in the game and make some money'.
However, Rumfitt added that though the news could prove very damaging if followed up by further revelations it might be buried by a Labour aiming their attacks elsewhere.
Chief whip Andrew Mitchell, who will be returning to Parliament amid calls for his resignation after being accused of calling a policeman a ‘pleb’, may be the real focus of opposition attacks, he said, adding:
‘The Mitchell issue has better crossover with the public, so the MOD might be spared on the basis that Labour have jucier fish to fry this week.’