Public Affairs: Register blueprint developed

Lobbying transparency - Cabinet Office minister gives thumbs up to plans.

The UK Public Affairs Council has developed a prototype version of the lobbying register it hopes will eventually be adopted by the Government.

The council - established by the APPC, CIPR and PRCA - is keen to exert influence over ministers' plans for a statutory register of lobbyists by coming up with the first detailed blueprint for such a scheme.

UKPAC's prototype web-based register is ready for testing over the summer, with the launch expected in the autumn.

The thinking behind the new lobbying register was presented to Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper last week, as the minister met newly appointed UKPAC chairwoman Elizabeth France and adviser Philip Mawer.

France told PRWeek that Harper gave the thumbs up to the blueprint: 'The minister encouraged UKPAC to proceed with the work plan developed by the implementation group.'

Unlike current registers, the new scheme will be aimed at both in-house and agency lobbyists.

France said UKPAC's aim was to have 'readily accessible information, in one place, about what lobbyists are doing and the standards to which they operate'.

She added: 'Achieving that in a way which is credible, proportionate and focused on the needs of the intended users is our challenge.

'The aim must be a smooth transition between the self-regulating approach and the introduction of a statutory register. That will require us to understand the scope of the register envisaged by the Government and to see how far we can reach agreement to anticipate it.'

The Commons public administration select committee has said that a register should be wide-ranging.

Its December 2008 report called for a register to include 'the names of the individuals carrying out lobbying activity and any organisation employing or hiring them ...

in the case of multi-client consultancies, the names of their clients ...

information about any public office previously held by an individual lobbyist ...

(and) information about contacts between lobbyists and decision-makers'.

Sources suggested that the UKPAC register would not cover all of these demands. 'It would essentially look very similar to the current APPC and PRCA registers,' said one senior industry source.

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