Liberal Democrats' lobbying plans are questioned following bounce in the polls

The recent bounce in the polls for the Liberal Democrats has prompted renewed scrutiny of their plans to clamp down on lobbying.

Lobbying clamp down: Nick Clegg
Lobbying clamp down: Nick Clegg

The Lib Dem manifesto, launched on 14 April, commits the party to a statutory register of lobbyists and says companies would be forced to declare lobbying spend.

It promises the party will ‘curb the improper influence of lobbyists by introducing a statutory register of lobbyists, changing the ministerial code so that ministers and officials are forbidden from meeting MPs on issues where the MP is paid to lobby, requiring companies to declare how much they spend on lobbying in their annual reports'.

Foresight Consulting MD Mark Adams, who helped set up the UK Public Affairs Council, said: ‘One of the interesting features of the surge in support for the Liberal Democrats is that all of us are having to focus on their proposals in more detail than before.

‘I fear that, in some areas, they have not given their own policies enough consideration, in the expectation that they had little chance of being implemented. Their poorly defined proposals on lobbying are an example of this.'

Lobbying consultant and former CIPR president Lionel Zetter said: ‘The key to Lib Dem thinking is in their use of the term "improper influence". What is improper influence? As far as the Lib Dems are concerned, the implication is that all lobbying is improper.

‘As for ministers and officials being forbidden from meeting MPs who are paid to lobby - well, MPs are forbidden from acting as paid advocates in any event.'

As expected, Labour pledged to implement a statutory register of lobbyists in last week's manifesto, but the Conservatives have not endorsed the idea.

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