While some MPs are reeling from Monday’s House of Commons vote to
disclose outside earnings and ban advocacy, lobby firms are looking
forward to the prospect of increased business.
Richard Faulkner, managing director of Westminster Communications -
which ended its relationship with four MPs last year - predicted the
vote would mean ‘a lot more work’ for government relations
‘It means clients, who might have been thinking about putting an MP on a
retainer, will realise they can get much better value and much better
service from a consultancy,’ he said.
Reaction to the vote from agencies and companies which still retain MPs
was varied. Sir Tim Bell, chairman of Lowe Bell Communications said: ‘We
have always abided by the rules and continue to abide by the new rules.
It does not follow that they are good rules.’ And he declared himself
very happy with the company’s arrangement with Peter Luff MP.
The rules on disclosure apply only to earnings from work solely arising
due to membership of the House of Commons - presenting a possible get-
out for those MPs who can prove that part of their earnings derive from
their previous occupation.
Luff, a PR man and consultant to Lowe Bell for many years prior to his
election in 1992, told PR Week he would seek advice from the new
Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards on ‘how I can best comply with
both the letter and the spirit of the rules’.
Chris Davies, head of government affairs at BAA, said he expected the
firm would not replace its retained MP, Jack Aspinwall, when he stands
down at the next election. And he said the new rules ‘must be good news’
for lobbying firms as they ‘took a competitor [MPs] out of the market’.
Peter Bingle, managing director of The Communication Group, confirmed
the agency is reviewing its own relationship with retained consultant
Anthony Steen MP ‘in the light of Monday’s vote’. He predicted a boom
for lobbyists as companies either build-up their own in-house teams or
made greater use of consultancies.
However, Charles Miller, secretary of the APPC - which has banned
financial links with MPs (although not peers and MEPs) - sounded a note
‘I think there is relatively little use of MPs for fixing,’ he said.
‘They are mainly used for advice and no doubt there will be many MPs on
the phone to their paymasters telling them that, in fact, nothing has