THE BLOG

Queen's Speech Was Another Wasted Opportunity on Lobbying

09/05/2013 11:43 BST | Updated 09/07/2013 10:12 BST
AP

The Queen's Speech was yet another wasted opportunity for the Government to make up its mind on a statutory register of lobbyists.

For the past three years, this Government has told us that a register is both essential and imminent. And for the past three years, it has failed to take any of the many opportunities open to it to introduce such a register.

In its defence, I suppose it is at least providing continuity in imitating the rhetoric and attitude of its predecessor. It is an absurd position when all three main parties (is that numerical term true post last Thursday?) say something is needed urgently, but none of them can be bothered to do it. The three leaders must drive their wives and children to despair if the same attitude pervades their domestic priorities...

Now some will say that this Bill was never going to happen anyway. They may well be right -certainly the weight of evidence is piling up on their side at the moment. And I for one have learned to be wary of betting against Peter Bingle's political assessments.

But even if that is the case, we as an industry have a problem -which is why we issued a joint statement with the CIPR and the APPC expressing our 'incredible disappointment'. Because I am indeed disappointed. Basically, the Government has two decent, sensible and constructive courses open to it:

Course 1. It says: 'This isn't going to happen. We have more important things to do. And [and here the wishful thinking begins] we've recognised in the cold light of day that the lobbying industry is actually ethical and professional. If anything, the problem lies with ex MPs and Cabinet Ministers. And the odd Army Chief too [wishful thinking ends]. So there will be no statutory register under this Government.'

Course 2. It says: 'The PM was right in his description of lobbying as the 'next big scandal'. So here is a firm, robust and deliverable timetable to deliver a statutory register, covering all who work in the lobbying industry -agency, in-house, freelance. The lot.'

Either of those routes is perfectly acceptable to our industry. We do not fear transparency -we embrace it. The PRCA register, for example, declares staff, clients, directors, passholders. Our members simply do not quibble about signing up to disclosure. They have nothing to fear from it.

The mood music of the Government -that ours is somehow a disreputable industry but that they just can't be bothered to sort it out- is irresponsible, untrue and unfair. It damages our reputation for no good reason.

So where now? Were I a gambling man, I would stake a fair amount of cash on the wager that there will be no statutory register at the time of the next election. If that is the case, it now falls to our industry to make the case for the value and ethicality of what we do. I think that's a challenge we should embrace with relish.