5 October 2010
2020Health, the centre right think tank with close links to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is out in force at this week’s Conservative Party conference. It is chaired by the CEO of a huge global network of health insurers, at the same time as arguing for a greater role for the private health sector.
2020Health Chairman, Tom Sackville – a former Conservative minister – is CEO of the International Federation of Health Plans, which represents one hundred private health insurance companies in 31 countries.
10th August, 2010
Councils are to curtail their use of lobbyists, following changes in the rules announced by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
All bodies that receive funding from the Department for Communities have been ordered to sever their contracts with lobbying firms.
Pickles said “taxpayer-funded lobbying and propaganda on the rates weakens our democracy” and his statement announced that “the practice of local authorities hiring lobbyists to press-gang Government into pet funding projects” is to stop.
The new rules take the form of an amended statutory Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, which is intended to stop campaigns being run from public funds.
6th July 2010
An Early Day Motion (EDM) urging the Coalition to bring forward the necessary legislation for an effective statutory register of lobbyists has been tabled by Kelvin Hopkins MP, at the request of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency.
This is the EDM :
That this House notes the commitment by the new coalition Government to establish a statutory register of lobbyists; recalls the personal commitment of the Deputy Prime Minister to introduce a statutory register; believes that such a register should be independently managed and enforced, that it should include information provided by both lobbyists and those being lobbied and provisions ensuring effective financial disclosure; and calls on the Government to bring forward the necessary legislation as a matter of urgency.
By July 6th, 29 MPs had signed from all parties, although of those only two Conservative have pledged their support.
JUNE 2nd 2010
A new poll today by ComRes finds that a clear majority of the lobbying industry supports the coalition government’s commitment to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists. The exclusive poll, which was commissioned by industry magazine Public Affairs News, found that almost two thirds of lobbyists support a statutory register.
The finding is significant as it suggests that the sector’s three associations – the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) and the CIPR Government Affairs Group (CIPR GAG) – are out of step with industry opinion.
All three groups favour self regulation - which the Public Administration Select Committee inquiry into lobbying concluded was inadequate.
ComRes surveyed 285 lobbyists between 19-21 May. Ninety-three per cent of respondents were aware of the new government’s commitment to introduce a statutory register, and 62 per cent said they support it.
The findings question the need for the nascent UK Public Affairs Council (UKPAC), the industry’s attempt to bolster self-regulation in the wake of the Public Administration Select Cmmittee’s findings.
Transparency campaigners welcomed the poll.
David Miller, spokesperson for the Alliance of Lobbying Transparency, said: "This poll torpedoes the industry case for self regulation. It shows the majority of people working within the industry favour a statutory register. It is clear that the self regulating body, the UK Public Affairs Council (UKPAC) should be consigned to the dustbin.”
26th May 2010
This week’s Queen’s Speech made no mention of the Coalition Agreement’s pledge to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists.
While the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency welcomes the commitment to a register, we are very concerned that the failure to include it in the Queen’s Speech will lead to delays in bringing forward the necessary legislation.
We will be maintaining pressure on the government to bring forward detailed plans for a statutory register and will be continuing the campaign at a grassroots level.
ALT will be publishing its own detailed statement on what an effective statutory register needs to include.
17th May 2010
Spinwatch published a comment piece in this weekend's Guardian on anger at the Coalition's plans for a statutory register for lobbyists, from an industry which has long considered the Tories amongst its closest allies.
You can read the piece here.
13TH MAY 2010
The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency has welcomed the move by the new Conservative and Liberal Democrat Government to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists. Its Coalition Agreement says on the issue of political reform:
"The parties will tackle lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists.”
David Miller of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency said: "This is a good first step in opening up government decision-making to greater public scrutiny. A statutory register of lobbyists will, for the first time, allow people to see who is influencing whom and about what. The new Government must now work to introduce the measure as soon as possible and not allow the inevitable lobbying from the industry to water-down or unnecessarily delay their plans."
The SpinWatch campaign targeting parliamentary candidates with links to lobbying has got under the skin of George Eustice, Conservative PPC for Camborne and Redruth in Cornwall. Eustice, Cameron’s former press secretary, worked until recently for lobbying and PR consultancy Portland PR.
He writes on his blog how he heard there was to be an online lobbying campaign against him, initiated by “a girl called Tamasin Cave, a political activist who writes regularly for Lib Dem blogs”.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Tamasin, a Spinwatch director - who is nearly 40 should that be of interest to anyone – is in regular touch with bloggers from Left Foot Forward to Guido Fawkes.
Attempting to tie the SpinWatch campaign to Lib Dem activism is, well, the kind of obfuscatory tactic one would expect from a professional lobbyist.
And it’s clearly sticking. When SpinWatch recently spoke to the Falmouth Packet, a local paper covering Camborne, the reporter asked whether we were linked to the Lib Dems.
No, the simple truth is this campaign has focused on the Tories because they have the largest number of PPCs who are professional lobbyists. We believe this is the reason why the Conservatives remain alone among the main parties in refusing to sign up to a statutory register of lobbyists.
20th APRIL 2010
Yesterday the Conservatives said they backed a statutory register for lobbying. But today it emerges that the commitment, made by the Tory manifesto writer Jeremy Hunt himself, was in fact a gaffe.
The Tories have since confirmed that they’re going to stick to their plans for self regulation – plans which are extremely popular with lobbyists but are derided as woefully inadequate by transparency campaigners and the other two political parties.
Yesterday we welcomed what looked like a major breakthrough but today we’re back to square one where the Tories are concerned. What can be going on when the manifesto writer himself says one thing only to be rebuked by Central Office hours later? Could it be that pressure from behind the scenes from the lobbying industry is throwing policy on transparency into disarray?
The Tories are in a vulnerable position - because despite Cameron’s fine words on transparency so many of their prospective parliamentary candidates work as lobbyists and so many of their friends are lobbyists. Isn’t it time they backed rhetoric with action and showed support for their manifesto writer rather than leaving him with egg on his face?
19th April 2010
In a significant policy u-turn the Conservatives today committed to a statutory register of lobbying – the last major party to do so.
In their manifesto the Tories supported a voluntary code. But speaking live on a Question Time debate hosted by The Guardian and grassroots campaign group 38 Degrees, Jeremy Hunt, the shadow culture secretary who wrote the manifesto, said:
“We have said there needs to be a statutory register of interests.” Asked at the end of the programme to confirm the statement as it contradicts the manifesto, Hunt said: “We believe in a statutory code.”
Transparency campaigners welcomed the comments. David Miller, spokesperson for the Alliance of Lobbying Transparency, said:
"If this really is now the Tory policy this is a significant change. It means that all parties now agree with us that transparency can only be guaranteed by a statutory register of lobbyists. Eighteen months ago no major political party was prepared to sign up to meaningful action on lobbying. Public outrage and our campaign has forced them to take the first significant steps towards openness."
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have already pledged support for a statutory register, but Liberal Democrat chief of staff Danny Alexander said his party would go much further, changing the ministerial code to forbid ministers to meet MPs on issues they are paid to lobby on and publishing a register of MPs interests before they entered parliament.