Cameron under pressure to crack down on lobbyists

Police consider opening fraud inquiry into Fox's 'adviser' Werritty. Andy McSmith reports

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Indy Politics

David Cameron faces growing pressure to introduce a law that requires political lobbyists to reveal who they are and whose interests they are promoting, as the City of London Police yesterday confirmed it was considering whether to open a fraud investigation into Adam Werritty, a friend of the former defence secretary Liam Fox.

Mr Werritty is suspected of being a covert lobbyist and the Labour MP John Mann has asked whether he fraudulently posed as a government adviser while promoting commercial interests.

Before Mr Cameron became Prime Minister, he warned that "secret corporate lobbying" could be the next major political scandal, after MPs' expenses, but since entering Downing Street he has not shown any sign of putting his words into action, although the idea of compelling lobbyists to register has support from the main political parties and from many major lobbying firms who abide by industry-imposed rules.

The lobbying industry agreed to regulate itself after a series of scandals in the 1990s, including the "cash-for-questions" affair, when it was revealed that MPs were being paid to ask parliamentary questions for commercial interests. Under its rules, lobbying must be transparent and using the privileged access that comes from holding a Commons security pass for commercial lobbying is forbidden.

A report by the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, published tomorrow, is expected to reveal of whether Adam Werritty was involved in commercial lobbying during any the 18 foreign trips he undertook with the Defence Secretary or his 22 meetings at the Ministry of Defence. Had there been a statutory register of lobbyists in place, it would have been illegal for Mr Werritty to carry out such activity without declaring it. But it is unlikely that he would have been bound by the industry's rules, as he is not a registered lobbyist or a member of a professional lobbyists' body.

Yesterday, Labour made a statutory register official party policy. The Shadow Cabinet Office minister Gareth Thomas said: "David Cameron has still not introduced the compulsory register of lobbyists he promised. In the wake of the Adam Werritty... activities it is essential we have greater transparency.

"The Government should bring forward, as a matter of urgency, plans for a compulsory register of lobbyists."