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Cameron promises to curb power of political lobbyists

Cameron has used his speech on cleaning up politics to call time on lobbying:

"It’s an issue that crosses party lines and has tainted our politics for too long...an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money. I’m talking about lobbying – and we all know how it works. The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisors for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way. In this party, we believe in competition, not cronyism. We believe in market economics, not crony capitalism. So we must be the party that sorts all this out. Today it is a £2 billion industry that has a huge presence in Parliament. The Hansard Society has estimated that some MPs are approached over one hundred times a week by lobbyists. I believe that secret corporate lobbying, like the expenses scandal, goes to the heart of why people are so fed up with politics. It arouses people’s worst fears and suspicions about how our political system works."

Mr Cameron plans to double the period during which ministers are prevented from taking related private sector jobs after leaving office. The current quarantine period is one year. It will increase to two if David Cameron is elected Prime Minister. He'll also change the guidelines in one other key respect:

"The guidance issued to ex-ministers by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, [explains] what kind of jobs they can take up. Today, ex-Ministers can ignore this advice without sanction. So we will rewrite the Ministerial Code to make clear that anyone who ignores the advice of the Committee will be forced to give up some or all of their Ministerial pension. Dealing with the lobbying issue may be painful, but it needs to happen and because we are from a new generation at ease with openness and accountability, because we believe in social responsibility not state control, we will clean things up."

Full speech text.

Tim Montgomerie

Hat tip for this story to Paul Waugh.

3.45pm James Forsyth: "There are risks to Cameron in this Obama-style play. As one Tory insider said to me just before party conference, ‘we’ve very vulnerable on the lobbying front.” Their concern stemmed not only from the number of candidates who were working for lobbying and PR firms but the social connections that link some of those at the top of the party with lobbyists."

4pm Douglas Carswell MP: "On August 13th last year, I wrote in PR Week of my "hunch that sooner or later we'll see a big Westminster story about the way that some lobbyists seek to buy influence."  I went on the mention "the revolving door between Whitehall and business" specifically. The digital revolution smashes hierarchy, opening up the cosy Commons to scrutiny.  It is about to do the same to the world of back-room deals cut between big government and big corporations, of corporatist conspiracies against the taxpayer."

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