The Conservative Party issued a research paper late last year that detailed how public money is spent by government agencies on external PR agencies in order to lobby government itself, often for more money. The paper details almost £10 million spent over a five year period. The Times took up the story here. The comment the Times got from Robbie MacDuff, chairman of the Association of Professional Political Consultants, is all too resonant of the current MP’s expenses scandal: “There is nothing illegal in this. It is part of the democratic process. All businesses and organisations - including public sector organisations - have a right to represent their views to government.” He would say that wouldn’t he?
Bodies spending more than £500K included the National Lottery Commission, Meat and Livestock Commission, Civil Aviation Authority, Crown Estate, Jobcentre Plus and the Health and Safety Executive. Lobbyists and their government customers cover up the true nature of their business with ambiguous terms such as "stakeholder relationship advice", "strengthening of relationships with key stakeholders", "policy tracking" and "strategic communications advice". In the US this type of activity is illegal. There is a ban on public bodies hiring lobbyists. The Byrd Amendment of 1996 prohibits the use of “federal contracts, grants, loans or monies to influence or attempt to influence, the executive or legislative branch”. We propose that the UK government applies such restrictions to itself.
Saving id: Government lobbying government
Area: Various departments
Total saving: £2 million per annum
Traffic light status: TBD
Previous idea for saving: (13) Cut the cost of Westminster politics by £200m