British Gas to review lobby strategy

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The Independent Online
British Gas is reviewing its government relations strategy and parliamentary lobbying effort, said by industry experts to be the most extensive in the country.

Among the lobbying and public relations firms retained by British Gas are Ian Greer Associates, Lowe Bell, Public Policy Unit, Luther Pendragon and the Maitland Consultancy. Together they have been responsible for putting the beleaguered company's message across to MPs, peers, Whitehall officials and the press. That is in addition to the company's internal, 33-strong corporate affairs department, headed by director, Peter Saguinetti.

This week, the Independent revealed one of the external consultants retained by British Gas, Angus Maitland of the Maitland Consultancy, had given out an anonymous document attacking Claire Spottiswoode, director-general of Ofgas.

The disclosure has led to calls from Labour for an Office of Fair Trading inquiry and threats of legal action from United Gas, a rival of British Gas, which believes it has been the victim of similar tactics.

Mr Sanguinetti has also shaken-up his in-house staff, moving Neil Hayes, the company's head of media relations for three years, to oversee its international PR operation. Mr Hayes' job is currently on offer at a salary, thought to be about pounds 80,000.

Details of the review were confirmed to PR Week, the industry journal. A company spokesman said it was "looking at proposals on a range of different issues", affecting its external advisors.