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Fox ‘broke ministerial code’
Lobbyists hope findings of Downing Street report will shift focus away from them
A report to be published by Downing Street today will state that Liam Fox did breach the ministerial code in his dealings with Adam Werritty while also concluding that Fox did not benefit financially from the relationship.
The news could shift attention back onto ministerial responsibility amid the growing chorus of criticism facing the UK lobbying industry.
In a Radio 4 Week in Westminster programme broadcast last Saturday, Peter Oborne, chief political commentator, at The Daily Telegraph asked Hanover Communications managing director Charles Lewington if he was embarrassed for his profession in the wake of the affair.
Lewington replied that he was not: ‘There is a distinction between informal lobbying and corporate lobbying that is transparent, self-regulated and subject to freedom of information requests.’
The CIPR issued a statement yesterday defending lobbyists amid rumours that the government is planning to implement a statutory register of lobbyists sooner than initially planned.
CIPR chief executive Jane Wilson said: ‘We are extremely disappointed that, once again, politicians appear to be pointing the finger at lobbyists when the political scandal is of their own making. Adam Werrity is not a lobbyist in the way that the vast majority of public affairs professionals would recognise. Most lobbyists have transparency as a guiding operating principle and are happy to disclose who their clients are.
‘We will engage with the government’s consultation on a register of lobbyists, but I believe that informal lobbying of ministers by…former ministers and political friends will not be eliminated by registering or regulating public affairs professionals.’
Kevin Craig, managing director of PLMR thinks some of the criticism of lobbyists can be attributed to confused reports as to whether or not Werritty was a special advisor, before adding that there should have been no such confusion because all special advisers are named in Parliament.
Desipite the controversy, Craig doubts the revelations will hasten the timetable for a statutory register of lobbyists. ‘We’ve never had more former lobbyists at the top of government than we do now, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have both worked as lobbyists – this government understands lobbying.’