29 Jan 2012
Reports this morning that the Cabinet Office official in charge of government efforts to clean-up of lobbying has stepped down after posting a message on Twitter saying she hoped a group fighting for better regulation of the industry “would die”.
The remark appeared in a series of tweets by Eirian Walsh Atkins, who resigned as head of constitutional policy at the Cabinet Office on Friday. She now faces an internal investigation into possible breaches of the civil service code of conduct.
According to the Daily Mail: 'Walsh Atkins will be asked to explain the tweet she posted on December 22, saying: “I wish Unlock Democracy [the campaign group] would die. I am prepared to help it along.” Asked to explain her comment about Unlock Democracy, she replied: “That I don’t like them,” and hung up.
However, more important than her apparent dislike of transparency campaigners is the fact that Walsh Atkins has held regular meetings with lobbyists seeking to influence the government's proposed statutory register of lobbyists, which she was responsible for preparing. She has met with the UK Public Affairs Council (UKPAC), a lobby industry body promoting self-regulation, on at least four occasions since September 2010. At the same time, transparency campaigners have been denied access.
The government's proposals for a statutory register, published last week, were widely seen as a whitewash, with lobbyists' fingerprints all over them.
The fact that the lobbying industry's lobbying of Walsh Atkins would remain a secret under the government's current proposals, will not do the government's case for minimal reform any favours.