CIPR concerns over Register of Lobbyists confirmed
Alison White, Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists, has confirmed the CIPR’s working assumption that the Register will be largely empty when it goes live next live next month.
Speaking to the BBC, Ms White said she expected “quite a low level” of activity initially, because the law that brought it into being was very narrowly drafted.
The CIPR has written to Ms White asking for clarification as to whether sitting MPs who act as consultant lobbyists are required to register with her – a possibility highlighted by the recent Channel 4 “Dispatches” investigation into Rt Hon Jack Straw MP and Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP.
In the letter, Alastair McCapra writes:
Presumably if they were making representations on behalf of a client to ministers or civil servants, while still serving as members of the House of Commons, they would be required to register on the same basis as any consultant lobbyist? I would be grateful if you could clarify this for me. I would also be keen to know whether, in the course of educating the Private Offices of Ministers about the new Register, you will be communicating with Parliamentary authorities to ensure that members of both Houses of Parliament are aware of the register and the activity it is intended to capture?
When the public read about ‘lobbying’ scandals and learn that there is a statutory lobbying register, they can reasonably infer a number of things. One is that lobbyists have been caught acting corruptly. The other is that the statutory register provides them with some defence against corruption. As we know, neither is the case specifically in relation to this story.
I therefore believe it would be in the public interest for the Lobbying Registrar to make a public statement each time a new ‘lobbying’ scandal breaks, to clarify whether or not any professional lobbyists have been involved; if they were, whether they were properly registered; and if not, whether their activities fall within or without the scope of the register as currently constituted.
We have consistently highlighted the question of the sustainability of the Register, which is likely to attract a low number of lobbyists at first. The chances Alison White has of getting some momentum behind it are being held back by the failure of the Cabinet Office to clarify how much it will cost to register.
About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations
Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK. With over 10,000 members involved in all aspects of public relations, it is the largest body of its type in Europe.
The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).
The CIPR was granted its Royal Charter by the Privy Council in February 2005.