Call for 'clear boundaries' after latest lobbying sting operation

Written by David Singleton on 29 January 2018 in News

Andrew Lansley made various references to his wife's public affairs firm, Low Europe.

The PRCA has stressed the need for “clear boundaries between businesses and legislators” after the latest of instance of politicians being caught on camera offering to advise a fictitious firm.

Three senior Conservatives were targeted in a sting operation by The Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches. The trio denied any wrongdoing after being filmed talking to representatives of a fictitious Chinese company about the UK government’s approach to Brexit.

The programme was aired on Channel 4 last night and among those speak to the undercover reporters was former health secretary Andrew Lansley, who said he would charge €5,000 (£4,400) a day.

The Tory peer also made a number of references to Low Europe, the public affairs firm run by his wife Sally Low. In one meeting, Lansley brought along his wife.

“If you have a contract with Low then basically I come with Low. So if you have a contract separately with me, it would have to appear on the transparency register as a contract with you. But if it’s with Low then it’s covered by the Low contract,” said Lansley.

He later added: “I would just do it with Low Europe to be perfectly honest. I think it’s much more straightforward.”

In the UK, it is standard practice for lobbying firms not to pay parliamentarians. The practice is banned by the voluntary codes of conduct that most firms adhere to.

However, Lansley is listed on the Low website and he has also declared his work for the firm on the Lords register of financial interests. In a statement provided after the sting, he insisted: “No privileged access, insider information, lobbying activity, parliamentary advice or services were offered.”

PRCA director general Francis Ingham said: “There is an absolute need for clear boundaries between businesses and legislators: what matters here is how people perceive their representatives.

“As we have said time and time again, it is pressingly clear that Parliament needs to address the fact that investigations like this reinforce the very idea that there is an entrenched culture of entitlement in Westminster.

"There is clearly a sizable gulf between the public’s understanding of what is and is not acceptable as a second job and Westminster’s understanding. It’s time for Parliament to close that gulf before it becomes entirely unassailable.”

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