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Draper calls for lobbying controls

NOTHING HAS changed since last year's "Lobbygate" scandal, the former adviser at the centre of the cash for access allegations said yesterday.

Derek Draper, who became a lobbyist before the 1997 election after working for Peter Mandelson, told the Committee on Standards in Public Life that the trade should be fully regulated.

Although there was little real impropriety there was still the impression that lobbyists could "pull strings for cash", he said. When he looked at the issue before giving evidence to the committee on lobbying, he said, he found special advisers were still becoming lobbyists and vice versa.

"I was quite surprised that what happened to me during `Lobbygate' did not seem to have affected the way the Westminster village worked," he said.

Mr Draper told Lord Neill's committee that all lobbyists should be obliged to register and sign up to a code so that the public could see they had no special privileges.

In addition, rules preventing civil servants from transferring into lobbying should be extended to senior party workers, contact between lobbyists and government should be logged and special advisers should wait two years after leaving their posts before going into lobbying.

Mr Draper also called for better information offices in government departments so that the public could find outwhat was happening.

Earlier in the day, Margaret Thatcher's former press secretary, Sir Bernard Ingham, warned that action was needed to halt the "prostitution" of the civil service.

The Neill Committee, chaired by Lord Neill of Bladen, is investigating the role of special advisers, lobbyists and commercial sponsorship in a review of public life.