Lobbying crackdown moves closer as ministers eye up bill

Government will piggyback on constitutional bill in a bid to register lobbyists.

The Government has drawn up secret plans for a tough crackdown on the lobbying industry, PRWeek can exclusively reveal.

Senior politicians are considering inserting a number of clauses into the Constitutional Renewal Bill, which is currently being drafted by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

This would pave the way for a statutory register of all lobbyists and an external regulatory body.

A senior Cabinet Office source told PRWeek no decision had been made about whether to push ahead with legislation. But the source added: 'If we do go down the legislative route, the Constitutional Renewal Bill will be the vehicle we use.'

With many lobbyists keen to pursue self-regulation, the news that legislation has been identified will set alarm bells ringing at many public affairs agencies. In January, the public administration select committee called for greater transparency in lobbying.

The pressure has increased in recent months, after The Sunday Times revealed in January that some peers may be willing to amend laws on behalf of lobbyists in return for cash.

Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson is overseeing the Government's response to the select committee.

A source close to Watson said: 'There will be reform on the back of this. The public wants to know the people making laws are doing it in a transparent manner. There is a strong desire to see commercial lobbyists publish a list of all their clients.

'The question is how we achieve that. There is the legislative route, but there is also a strong argument for self-regulation, so that you don't end up with an overly burdensome framework.'

An MoJ spokeswoman said: 'It is our intention to introduce a bill as soon as parliamentary time allows.'

Public Affairs news, page 5

TIME LINE

13 February: At PMQs, Gordon Brown pledges to 'seriously' consider plans for a register of lobbyists

25 January: The Sunday Times reveals four peers offered to help reporters posing as lobbyists to obtain an amendment in return for cash

5 January: Commons public administration select committee publishes its report into lobbying.

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