|BBC News reports that the government is planning draft legislation which will introduce a statutory register of lobbyists ‘before 2015’.|
Prime Minister, David Cameron, spoke last year of lobbying being 'the next big scandal'. Ministers in his own Cabinet, Dr Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, and Culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, have both been implicated in scandals involving lobbying and attempts to gain access and influence over Government policy.
From the BBC:
The government is "determined" to introduce a register of lobbyists before 2015, constitutional reform minister Mark Harper has said.
"At a Commons committee hearing, Mr Harper pledged to publish a draft bill during this parliamentary session.
"Mr Harper defended the proposals [which] MPs described as "shoddy" and "weak".
"Labour backbencher and committee member Paul Flynn listed a string of recent lobbying scandals to have hit the government, despite Prime Minister David Cameron's 2010 prediction that lobbying was "next big scandal waiting to happen".
"The Labour MP argued there was a "gulf" between the "splendid rhetoric" of ministers' announcements on lobbying reforms and the reality of the current proposals under consideration.
"He demanded to know why had the government "retreated" from publishing a code of conduct for lobbyists.
"The government has held a public consultation on plans to create a register of lobbyists acting on behalf of third parties.
"Under the plans, when meetings are held between such lobbyists and ministers or other parliamentarians the names of the organisations they are representing will be made public.
"Draft legislation would enable detailed scrutiny of the plans to begin during this session of Parliament, he added. The session is expected to last until April next year.
"But Mr Flynn said the reforms would not constitute "worthwhile transparency" unless the content of discussions with lobbyists was also divulged.
"Mr Harper said that the level of detail to be revealed about meetings would be "meaningful", arguing that his plans would strike the right balance between transparency and burdensome regulation.
"He said the government had no intention of establishing "another quango" to regulate lobbying, which he described as a "perfectly reputable activity".
"Transparency is the way you deal with the concerns that people have got," he told the committee."
A number of significant scandals, including the Bell Pottinger scandal, and not least the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, have hit the government in recent months. Paul Flynn MP who is mentioned above, was critical of the inquiry into the Fox/Werritty affair, questioning Sir Gus O’Donnell who led the inquiry as to why all of Adam Werritty’s activities were not fully investigated. Flynn called for a wider and more thorough inquiry to take place, telling the Public Administration Select Committee which grilled O’Donnell, that “the inquiry was conducted for reasons of political expediency to avoid embarrassment for the Government.”
The revelations which have emerged from investigations into the events have exposed the uncomfortably close relations between members of the government and self- interested parties, and have reinforced the need for lobbying to be made more transparent.
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