Public Affairs: Industry split over statutory lobby plan

The public affairs industry is sharply divided over the coalition government's surprise decision to pursue a statutory register of lobbyists.

As reported last week on prweek.com/uk (12 May), a document drawn up by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats stated: 'The parties will tackle lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists.'

The document, entitled Coalition Negotiations - Agreements Reached, provides no further details on the plans for a statutory register. It is expected that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will oversee the plans, working closely with Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.

The Lib Dems have long been in favour of such a register, but the move represents a climbdown by Tory leader David Cameron.

PRCA director-general Francis Ingham fumed: 'It is a very poor decision that will do nothing to increase transparency and accountability, but much to increase costs and red tape.'

Some agency bosses agreed with Ingham. Open Road director Martin Le Jeune said: 'It is gesture politics at its worst. Self-regulation is robust, practical and cost-effective. This register will be none of those things.'

But others were more relaxed about the plans. Whitehouse Consultancy MD Chris Whitehouse said: 'The introduction of a statutory register is long overdue. We very much welcome the greater openness and transparency this will bring to the sector.'

Westminster Advisers MD Dominic Church said: 'A statutory register is no problem.'

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