FRIDAY 6 NOV 2009 10:44 AM


The Public Relations Consultants Association has expressed relief that the Government has backed away from imposing new regulations on the lobbying industry.

Details of meetings between civil servants and lobbyists will not to published, despite calls from MPs on the Public Administration Committee, who made the recommendation after a six-month inquiry.

A report by the Cabinet Office said that this “would involve collating a huge amount of information and divert significant resources within departments”. It also argued that a register of interests for senior civil servants “would be a disproportionate requirement that would place a significant burden on departments and agencies while adding very little to the regulation of lobbying”.

The report also ruled out a case for a statutory register of lobbying activity, which it argued would be unworkable. Instead ministers’ meetings with lobbyists will be made more accessible and the body that advises over whether senior civil servants can join the private sector “will be made more professional”.

Francis Ingham, director-general of the Public Relations Consultants Association, said: “The PRCA welcomes the Government's recognition of our efforts to make self-regulation as effective as possible. We are also aware that this is the industry’s final chance to make this system work. Those who have buried their heads in the sand — and who are responsible for bringing us to the brink — need to extract themselves. And do so quickly.”

But David Miller, of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, said: "The Government has shown it is not serious about political reform by allowing lobbyists to continue to self-regulate. Asking the public to trust lobbyists to operate transparently is like asking us to trust MPs on expenses. Self-regulation is no regulation."