Minister plans Paris visit

Transparency - Watson heads to Europe as Government delays response to committee.

Paris-bound: Watson will make the trip next week
Paris-bound: Watson will make the trip next week

Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson will head to Paris next week to learn about international lobbying regimes.

Watson is overseeing the Government's response to the recent public administration select committee report calling for greater transparency in lobbying.

The Cabinet Office had intended to respond to the select committee by 5 March, but it has postponed its verdict.

Instead, Watson will travel to Paris to meet policy officials from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development who work in the field of 'proprietary ethics'. It is understood officials will advise the minister on various systems in place across the globe for regulating lobbying.

Watson may also travel to Brussels to meet key figures involved in the European Commission's lobbying register.

Details of Watson's visit were still being finalised as PRWeek went to press.

A senior Cabinet Office source said it had taken 'more time than expected' to formulate a response to the select committee.

Earlier this week, the APPC, CIPR and PRCA agreed to form a 'working party' in an attempt to persuade the minister that self-regulation is a feasible option. The group also incorporates three 'independent individuals', including Sir Philip Mawer, the Prime Minister's independent adviser on ministers' interests. A statement put out by the group said it intended to publish a report on possible next steps 'before the summer'.

But a source close to the minister said he was keen for the group to include a representative from the Law Society, given that many law firms have public affairs arms.

A spokeswoman for the Law Society said: 'The society has reiterated that it would be happy to contribute to the discussion and requested dates of meetings. No response has been received.'

She added: 'As the proposed system would affect a large number of public affairs practitioners working in-house, for charities, trade unions and other bodies, we would like to see a much broader input to the work of this group, as well as public affairs consultancies and those working in them.'

The Law Society has said it would support a statutory register of all those involved in lobbying.

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