MPs lambast lack of engagement over UK lobbying bill

LONDON: A House of Commons committee intended to scrutinize political reform has criticized the UK government over its rush to legislate for a statutory lobbying register and lack of proper response to the committee's previous viewpoint.

LONDON: A House of Commons committee intended to scrutinize political reform has criticized the UK government over its rush to legislate for a statutory lobbying register and lack of proper response to the committee's previous viewpoint.

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee issued a report on Friday taking exception to the government's publication this week of its draft bill on lobbying. It stated it was dissatisfied it had been denied the opportunity to carry out “pre-legislative scrutiny on a draft bill.”

The same committee reported last July that previous plans for a statutory lobbying register were “not fit for purpose.”

On Friday, it claimed it was “utterly unacceptable” that the government had taken more than a year to respond to that report.

Chloe Smith, the minister for political and constitutional reform, responded to the committee on Thursday in a letter stating regret that the timetable for the bill's introduction has not allowed for formal pre-legislative scrutiny.

The committee said it was also unacceptable that Smith's response was in the form of a letter of a page and a half that does not engage with any of the detailed points made in its July 2012 report.

“We consider that this shows a lack of respect for Parliament and for the many people who contributed to our inquiry,” it said. It also urged the government to provide a revised response.

“The committee's initial report on lobbying last year was helpful, and I would like to reiterate the apology I made to the committee yesterday for the delay in the government's response,” Smith said in a statement issued on Friday. “We consulted widely on our proposals for a statutory register of lobbyists and considered the committee's report carefully before bringing forward this bill.”

“We do not believe further pre-legislative scrutiny is required, as the bill demonstrates the government's position in relation to the committee's report,” the statement continued. “We will, of course, engage actively with the committee and other experts and stakeholders over the summer to examine fully how the provisions will work in practice.”

The committee on Thursday announced a call for written evidence to be submitted by August 23 “to accommodate the likely legislative timetable for the bill.”

This story originally appeared on the website of PRWeek UK.

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