‘Hilariously bad’: Lobbyists mock toothless statutory register

Less than a quarter of lobbyists think they will be forced to comply with the government's moves to enforce transparency on the sector.

A survey by the Public Relations Consultants Association's (PCRA) public affairs group found 23% expect to be captured by the proposed statutory register of lobbyists.

The government's transparency of lobbying bill will only require consultancies whose main business is lobbying to take part.

But the majority of lobbyists in the UK's £2 billion public affairs industry work in-house for large organisations or for agencies, raising value-for-money questions about the estimated £50,000 initial annual cost of the register.

The International Fair Trade Federation's director of government affairs Dominick Moxon-Tritsch described the Cabinet Office's plans as "hilariously bad" and warned they would only encourage "regulatory arbitrage".

"Driving lobbying in-house will deny clients the expertise and ethical guidance of agencies and encourage wing and prayer in-house lobbying," he said.

"Moreover, this bill would have done nothing to prevent the recent string of 'lobbying scandals' (which are in fact nothing of the sort) to which it is a reflexive response."

MPs on the political and constitutional reform committee are frustrated because the government has provided very limited engagement with them on the proposals.

The lobbying bill published earlier this month was not put forward for pre-legislative scrutiny, while draft legislation to introduce a right to recall misbehaving MPs did not feature in this year's Queen's Speech at all.

Government sources have told Politics.co.uk the delay in the recall bill is caused by a lack of consensus, after backbenchers poured scorn on the limited nature of the proposals.

Moves against lobbying have been made more urgent by recent scandals which have generated a political need for swift legislation, however.