New registrar named for ORCL as ministers rapped by parliament over appointment process

The Government has named the former chief executive of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Harry Rich, as its preferred candidate to be the new Registrar at the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists (ORCL).

Harry Rich is expected to take up his role as the new registrar this week
Harry Rich is expected to take up his role as the new registrar this week

Rich, who currently runs an executive coaching business, is expected to take up the part-time role later this week, working approximately 40 days per year.

The role of the new registrar was advertised between April and June and was later re-advertised before three people, including one woman, were interviewed.

The announcement of Rich’s appointment as the preferred registrar was made by Chloe Smith MP, Parliamentary Secretary in the Cabinet Office.

Government criticised by Committee

However, there was friction between the Government and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which scrutinises and then endorses the appointment process for the registrar.

Oliver Dowden, the minister for implementation was forced to apologise for the Cabinet Office’s failure to consult the Committee on the selection process for the new registrar.

Following a pre-appointment hearing, held last week, the Committee then criticised ministers for not providing an explanation as to why Rich’s nomination as the preferred candidate was delayed.

It also said that if the Committee not been able to expedite the hearing or had failed to endorse Rich, it was unclear what the Government would have done next.

In a statement, the Committee said: "The Committee is critical of the rushed way in which the scrutiny of Mr Rich's appointment has had to be conducted. Recognising the importance of a swift appointment, we agreed to accelerate the process. We may not be in a position to be as accommodating in future…we trust that steps will be taken to ensure such circumstances do not arise again."

Work history

Before running his own company, Rich was the chief executive of RIBA for more than six years.

He has also holds current positions as a non-executive member of the Press Recognition Panel and as a governor of Glasgow School of Art.

Rich replaces Alison White, who became ORCL’s first registrar when the Government’s official lobbying register was set up in 2015. White’s term of office ends this week.

Rich trained as a solicitor and held managing director roles at a series of SMEs.

He also served as a magistrate for three years before holding positions as a non-executive director at the Advertising Standards Authority, deputy chief executive of the Design Council and a compliance role with the Press Complaints Commission.

Industry reaction

Following the announcement, the PRCA called for Rich to look beyond the 2014 Lobbying Act in his working relationship with the lobbying industry.

Lionel Zetter chair of the PRCA Public Affairs and Lobbying Group, said: "We’d like to welcome Harry Rich, and begin this working relationship with a clear offer: the public affairs industry is always willing to work collaboratively to find the most appropriate and effective solution, whether that be providing a forum to discuss changes and consultations directly with practitioners or detailed policy input from those with a long history of running and engaging with registers. Let’s work together to ensure that the public affairs industry is understood in real terms, rather than through the prism of the Lobbying Act 2014."

Phil Morgan, Deputy chief executive of the CIPR added: "Professional lobbying is vital to democracy but the Lobbying Act provided for a wholly inadequate register that has damaged the civic life of the nation. We look forward to meeting Harry Rich - the public affairs industry is willing and waiting to work collaboratively with government to meet the challenges that lie ahead."

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