Lobbying register rethink rumoured to include in-house
Pressure has shifted on to powerful trade associations and think-tanks over plans for a statutory lobbying register, as suggestions circulate that the Government is likely to include in-house lobbyists.
Under pressure: Mark Harper is running the consultation (Cabinet Office)
The minister for political and constitutional reform, Mark Harper, launched the 12-week consultation into lobbying in January, but excluded in-house lobbyists, leading many to suggest the consultation is 'fundamentally flawed'.
However, insiders have suggested that Harper is now warming to the idea of including in-house lobbyists.
He has consulted figures such as Airport Operators Association chief executive Darren Caplan, who said that excluding the 80 per cent of lobbyists who are in-house would be 'unfair'.
This shift is understood to worry several organisations that have huge lobbying firepower, such as the Confederation of British Industry and a body that it administers, the Trade Association Forum.
The forum's manager, Linda Cavender, told PRWeek: 'We do believe that trade associations should be excluded. We do exactly what is says on the tin - it's less clear with lobbying consultants.'
Cavender added that she believed that the idea of a statutory register in general was disproportionate to the 'perceived problem'.
Her call was seconded by DG of the Institute of Economic Affairs Mark Littlewood, who said a register should only include agencies.
While the CBI declined to comment, PRCA chief executive Francis Ingham said: 'The CBI is arguably the country's biggest lobbyist. When I worked there, the level of access it had to ministers was astonishing - Digby Jones would regularly phone ministers without notice.'
A Cabinet Office spokesman denied that Harper had made any decision on including in-house consultants.
Harper is understood to have initially thought that a register including in-house lobbyists would be over-long, but a suggested way around this would be to make it retrospective, for instance by focusing on the activities that were carried out over the previous three months.
This article was first published on prweek.com
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