Government 'should tighten regulation' as Downing Street official joins Wonga

The public affairs industry has called on the Government to improve regulations that will tighten the rules on former government officials becoming lobbyists.

Wonga: Jonathan Luff joining from Downing Street
Wonga: Jonathan Luff joining from Downing Street

The call comes after Jonathan Luff, a senior adviser to David Cameron, has quit Downing Street to head controversial loans company Wonga’s government affairs team.

The Government’s current proposals for a statutory register of lobbyists do not include public affairs professionals working in-house for large organisations. This means that Luff would not be required to register as a lobbyist.

PRCA director general Francis Ingham said: ‘It is ridiculous that a lobbyist that was until recently advising the Prime Minister would not be included on a statutory register. The Government needs to take transparency seriously and require all professional lobbyists to register.

‘At the same time we need tighter regulation of former government officials to end the practice of "revolving door" lobbying, which harms an industry that wants to be more transparent.’

Wonga told The Independent that Luff's appointment was fully compliant with the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which suggests that former officials do not directly lobby Government for a prescribed period of time, usually two years.

APPC chairman Michael Burrell called for ‘a new and transparent set of rules that could be enforced by statute’ on the ‘revolving door’ issue, adding that current rules were ‘too opaque and it is not clear that they are being consistently enforced’.

Connect Communications CEO Gill Morris added that the move ‘is not really helpful to the wider industry’.

‘"Revolving doors" again,’ said Morris. ‘Basically Mr Luff is governed by civil service rules and as Ms Creasey says is not in a position to "lobby" for the defined period. Wonga certainly has an image problem but I am not really sure, by definition, that Mr Luff is going to be much use if he is not in a position to lobby or use his revolving door access.  

‘Simply because this smacks of access it is not really helpful to the wider industry or I suggest to Wonga.’

The CIPR’s comms director Phil Morgan added: ‘It is up to the Government to propose a workable way of regulating the transfer of personnel from key positions in Government to business and industry.’

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: ‘A statutory register of lobbyists was promised in the programme for government, and remains government policy. If anyone working for an external organisation meets a minister, then that meeting is published in the quarterly list of ministerial meetings, and includes information about who that person works for and what the meeting was about.

‘We are currently considering issues in relation to business appointment rules as part of our response to the PASC report published in July.’

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