Decision pending on probe into lobbying practice

The chairman of the Public Administration Committee will decide over the next few weeks whether there will be a parliamentary investigation into lobbying practices before the end of 2007.

‘It's certainly one of the things we're considering and if we were to decide to do it, it would be later this year,' said Tony Wright, ­Labour MP for Cannock Chase.

He added: ‘It is something that, in principle, we would like to do. It's just a question of finding a moment in the programme to do it.'

Wright's comments build on those reported in The Times on 31 March this year, in which he said there was ‘a case for having a thorough look at the whole lobbying issue, to review whether we've got the system right and there is enough transparency in the system'.

If the committee decides to have an inquiry, it will be the first detailed parliamentary examination since 1991 of the practice of lobbying.

The renewed focus on the activity has been triggered by Labour backbencher John Grogan, whose concerns about the transparency of the public affairs industry were first revealed in PRWeek earlier this year (23 February).

Lobbyists claim not to be opposed to such an investigation.

Graham McMillan, CEO of Open Road, said: ‘It would mean a level of public scrutiny that will be very welcome both for the industry and our clients.'

Chris Whitehouse, MD of the Whitehouse Consultancy, said it would help to ensure ‘higher standards of probity'.

Meanwhile, Grogan, for­mer comms co-ordinator at Leeds Council and MP for Selby, is meeting with the ­Association of Professional Political Consultants on 14 May to discuss his next move (PRWeek, 27 April).

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