MPs demand reform of secretive lobbying system


The Government faced calls today  from both Tory and Labour MPs to reform Britain’s secretive lobbying system in the wake of revelations in The Independent.

This morning we published details of how Bell Pottinger boasted about its access to the heart of Government to journalists posing as potential clients.

The revelations have increased pressure for the Government to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists.

Conservative backbencher Jesse Norman said that the latest disclosures reaffirmed his view that lobbying was a “canker on the body politic”.

"There is a huge need for greater transparency and integrity and honesty in the relationships between different business organisations and politicians. This casts both sides in rather a bad light," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

Labour MP John Cryer, who is tabling a backbench bill on lobbyists, said the system should be opened up and made properly transparent.

"You have got the panzer divisions, as one Tory MP once described them, of big business bringing the heavy artillery to bear on government. It is not open, it is not transparent, people don't know what's going on," he told The World at One.

"It is a cosy club at the centre of government seemingly being influenced in making decisions without any sort of accountability."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said companies would do better to go through the official channels to speak to ministers and civil servants about their concerns.

"It simply isn't true to say that Bell Pottinger or any other lobbying company has influenced Government policy," said the spokesman.

"Clearly it is in their interests to tell their clients that they can provide them with a service and that is what they appear to be doing."

The spokesman said that Downing Street, the Treasury and the Department for Business were happy to speak to companies about their business concerns in response to direct contacts.

"In my experience in the civil service, the official process is the best one to pursue," he said. "If companies want to spend money on lobbyists, that is a matter for them."

Lord Bell, chairman of Bell Pottinger's parent company Chime Communications, told the Press Association the firm would be making a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission about the "sting".

"There is no public interest in this story," said Lord Bell. "There is absolutely no suggestion of any impropriety either. If there was, I would sue them.

"I am a great supporter of the freedom of the press and a great believer in self-regulation. This story does nothing to enhance either argument."

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett accused the Government of being "too close to corporate interests".

"These are very serious allegations involving a former member of the Conservative front bench as well as some of David Cameron's closest confidants inside Downing Street and his cheerleaders in the media," said the Labour frontbencher.

"We have been calling on the Government to implement a statutory register of lobbyists. We need reform to ensure that there is no question of the rich and powerful buying access to the Prime Minister and his advisers."

But Mr Cameron's spokesman said: "I simply do not accept that there was undue access."

He added: "It is wholly unsurprising that, in a conversation with the Chinese, we might talk to them about intellectual property rights. I think you would be surprised if we did not.

"In conversation with foreign governments, we often talk about business issues."

He added: "If companies have issues, then they can come and talk to the Government. We have a Department for Business which speaks to companies all the time. People in the Treasury speak to business and people in business speak to Downing Street. If James Dyson phoned Downing Street, somebody would take his call."

Government proposals for a statutory register of lobbyists, which were due to be published last month, are not now expected until after Christmas.

Asked when they will appear, Mr Cameron's spokesman said only: "Pretty soon."

The coalition agreement committed ministers to regulating the industry by introducing the register "and ensuring greater transparency".

New laws are not likely to be introduced before the next session of Parliament.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "The Government has repeatedly emphasised the commitment made in the coalition agreement to bring greater transparency to lobbying by establishing a statutory register.

"We plan to bring forward proposals in the coming weeks."

* Caught on camera: top lobbyists boasting how they influence the PM
* The Sting: The fake 'Asimov Group' meets Bell Pottinger
* The Transcript: 'David Cameron raised it with the Chinese Prime Minister'
* We wrote Sri Lankan President's civil war speech, say lobbyists
* Vicious dictatorship which Bell Pottinger was prepared to do business with
* Oliver Wright: Vested interests are entitled to argue their case, but it must be in the open
* Andrew Grice: Plenty of talk about cracking down on lobbying – but still there's no action
* Leading article: Evidence of a lobbying industry out of control


Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel