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Lobbyists (Statutory Register)

Volume 533: debated on Tuesday 11 October 2011

1. What recent discussions he has had on the timetable for consultation on the introduction of a statutory register of lobbyists. (72854)

I have corresponded with a number of ministerial colleagues with a view to running a consultation process and introducing legislation in the second Session as part of the Government’s commitment to transparency, which has already resulted in our publishing details of ministerial meetings, Government procurement and a number of other items of public interest.

I am sure many of us would welcome that legislation. As the House is periodically reminded, all sorts of people can seek to market their ability to lobby, and even secure access to, decision makers. A voluntary register will attract only agencies seeking to uphold higher standards of practice. Will the Minister assure us that his proposed register will be comprehensive and include all those seeking to ply this trade?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question, and I can confirm that when we publish our consultation it will be clear that we intend these proposals to be comprehensive. We will consult on them widely, which will give all those with an interest in transparency the opportunity to comment on them. I hope that reassures my hon. Friend.

I do not expect the Minister to prejudge any report by the Cabinet Secretary on the Defence Secretary this week, but does he agree that the type of situation the Defence Secretary has found himself in with Mr Werritty would be exposed very clearly if there were a full, transparent register of lobbyists, and does he also agree that that should be compulsory and introduced as a matter of urgency?

The right hon. Gentleman said he was going to try not to prejudge that report, but it sounded very much like he did. The Secretary of State for Defence was in the Chamber for an hour yesterday afternoon and gave a very good account of himself. [Interruption.] Yes, he did; I was present for Defence questions and his statement, and he gave a very good account of himself. As the Prime Minister has said, he is doing an excellent job as Defence Secretary. The Prime Minister has set up a review by the Cabinet Secretary which will deal with any remaining questions, and the right hon. Gentleman rightly said that he does not want to prejudge that.