Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

Government proposals for a statutory register of lobbyists met criticism from all sides when the Hansard Society provided a platform for the Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, Mark Harper.  Lobbyists, charities and campaigners rounded on the defects and inadequacies of what they predicted would become nothing more than a meaningless list of names.

Harper did his best to defend what he said would be an “ongoing register” of “who is lobbying for whom” which would provide a public record of lobbyists, consultancies, law firms, charities etc and would catch “anyone who does anything which could be described as lobbying.”

There would be sanctions (perhaps civil or criminal) for lobbyists who did not comply by signing up to the register but the government was determined to keep its proposals – currently open for consultation until 30 April – proportionate to the problem; there was no intention of creating a statutory code of conduct for lobbyists or establishing a regulator to oversee the industry.

Harper made a swift exit before the Hansard Society opened up the issue for debate (29.2.2012) but if he had remained he would have heard his proposals being roundly derided.

“Gullibility” is the word which Chime Communication’s chairman Lord (Tim) Bell is reported to have implied when trying to explain away the ineptitude of senior members of his staff in allowing themselves to get caught in a newspaper sting.

Bell has condemned what he considered was an “unethical, underhand deception” by undercover reporters from the  Independent’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism in tricking Tim Collins, managing director of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, into believing they were agents for the government of Uzbekistan.

Self regulation for political lobbying is currently the only show in town but the demand that lobbyists should be allowed to continue policing themselves was blown to bits at a Guy Fawkes’ night debate at the Houses of Parliament.