MPs' concern over lobbying tsar

Written by David Singleton on 15 September 2014 in News

Political and Constitutional Reform Committee approves appointment of Alison White - but report raises 'concerns'

MPs have expressed concern that the new lobbying tsar will not respond appropriately to any problems she encounters with the Government’s lobbying register.

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has approved the Cabinet Office’s preferred candidate for the role of registrar of consultant lobbyists.

Having quizzed Alison White last week, a report by the committee stated today: "Overall, we are satisfied that Alison White has the professional competence and personal independence required for the post of Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists. We therefore support her appointment and wish her every success in the new role."

However, the MPs added: "We had concerns relating to how the candidate would respond if the legislation was found to be wanting."

It comes after White clashed with Conservative MP Tracey Crouch at last Thursday’s hearing.

Crouch, a former public affairs chief at Aviva, had wanted to know how White would respond if the limited scope of the lobbying register proved problematic.

She said:  "So you wouldn’t see it as appropriate for you to go back to the Cabinet Office and say ‘what we’ve actually discovered in the process of setting it up and implementing it and running it on a day-to-day basis is that actually it counts for very little of what the industry does and the activities it conducts’?"

She added: "It is your role to go back to government as the registrar and say 'actually it’s not working, it’s not covering everything you wanted to do, so the principle of the legislation about providing greater transparency in the lobbying industry is being undermined by some of the primary legislation'."

But White disagreed with the former lobbyist and insisted it was not her job to tell ministers how the register was shaping up.

She replied: "No I wouldn’t see that as part of my role… It’s not part of my role to unpick the will of Parliament."

In today’s report, the committee also noted that "there should also be clarification about any potential conflict of interest relating to her post as non-executive director of the QE II Conference Centre".

The report adds: "Ministers may wish to consider action in relation to these two points. In addition, we raised the candidate’s lack of familiarity with the lobbying industry and lack of a working knowledge of Parliament."

 

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