Lobbyists in revolt against MPs' proposed crackdown

Senior lobbyists have responded angrily to MPs' demands for radical regulation of the UK lobbying industry.

Criticism: Lord Bell has attacked the reports
Criticism: Lord Bell has attacked the reports

The House of Commons public administration select committee this week called for all meetings between MPs and lobbyists to be detailed in a new register.

It also said the industry should be given six months to set up a new independent body to uphold high ethical standards.

These calls were made in an 81-page report. The Government will now consider the proposals and respond within three months.

The plans were enthusiastically welcomed by The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency.

The campaign group said: ‘This shows that the status quo is clearly no longer an option. The public has a right to know which groups are bending the Government’s ear to influence policy.’

But Chime Communications chairman Lord Bell fumed: ‘It is an incompetent report which contributes nothing – either in its analysis or in its recommendations – to help people who are concerned that the Government comes under undue influence.’

Bell added: ‘I’ve no idea whether the mandatory [register] scheme will ever be put in place. However, should some code be introduced, of course we will abide by it.’

The PRCA took an equally strident line, with PRCA director general Francis Ingham denouncing the ‘costly and cumbersome new structures’ proposed by the MPs. He added: ‘We simply do not accept that effective self-regulation is unfeasible, or that a new regulator is required.’

BAA public affairs director Tom Kelly also urged the Government to be cautious about the proposals.

He said: ‘I'm not opposed in principle to what the committee is proposing, but I do think you need to think quite carefully about what sort of impact that would have. You need proper engagement with ministers and officials to make sure they fully understand the complexities of issues such as aviation.'

Kelly warned: ‘If you’re not careful there can be a chill factor whereby officials don’t have the conversations they need to have, because they worry about how such contact will be perceived.’

Key proposals

There should be a mandatory register listing in-house lobbyists, agencies and the names of all their clients

The register should detail all contact between lobbyists and decision-makers

There should be a ‘single umbrella organisation’ to promote ethical behaviour

The new organisation should be funded by lobbyists but run by ‘people from outside lobbying’

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