Mayor angers campaigners

London mayor causes stir by relaxing City Hall guidelines on contract tender process.

New approach: Boris Johnson has changed the rules on contracts
New approach: Boris Johnson has changed the rules on contracts

London mayor Boris Johnson has said he will 'open up' City Hall public affairs contracts in a move that has been slammed by campaigners calling for greater transparency in lobbying.

Johnson this week agreed to overhaul his predecessor Ken Livingstone's approach to using public affairs agencies following pressure from Tory MP Peter Luff (PRWeek, 1 August).

Livingstone last year pledged that City Hall would only use agencies that are committed to disclosing their client lists (PRWeek, 23 August 2007). But a City Hall spokesperson said the new mayor would be satisfied if agencies agreed to adhere to the guiding principles jointly drafted by the APPC, CIPR and PRCA last year.

A spokesperson for the mayor said: 'We have looked at the request from Peter Luff MP and can see no harm in opening up all future tenders for City Hall contracts to more companies. Providing all those that apply are happy to sign up to the joint code of conduct agreed by the APPC, CIPR and PRCA, they will be considered. Contracts will be granted on merit with value-for-money principles in mind following appropriate procurement procedures.'

According to the guiding principles, lobbyists should 'always be clear and precise about your identity and any organisation you represent'. But they fall short of requiring lobbying agencies to disclose their full client list.

The APPC's recently installed chair Robbie MacDuff insisted he was pleased with the latest development in the ongoing debate over transparency in lobbying. He said: 'City Hall's comments are very positive... The guiding principles of conduct ensure that all those employed by public sector organisations work within an ethical framework'.

But the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency was far less impressed. Spokesman David Miller said: 'The guiding principles are just another fig leaf designed to hold off much-needed transparency regulation. Removing the requirement is an indication that lobbyists opposed to transparency are welcome at the Greater London Authority.

'The harm that this spat does is to distract from the central concern of how to ensure real transparency in lobbying.'

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