Eight years ago in July 2013 the Lobbying Bill was set out by the Prime Minister, David Cameron. Over the following 6 months it was used to bring out rules that prevent the Trade Unions and Charities from raising their priorities and themes in a period prior to a General Election. The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 was set out in January 2014. The author of that Act has today been described in a very disturbing basis by the Treasury Committee here and a few words are presented below. The Committee is Chaired by Mel Stride and there are a total of six Conservative MPs, four Labour MPs and Alison Thewliss who is the SNP MP member. Within the Conservative group there is Steve Baker and Harriet Baldwin and within the Labour group there is Angela Eagle and Emma Hardy. The real question is given how lobbying is being handled by Politicians, which group of people need to reform the lobbying barriers.
Mr Cameron was acting as a representative of Greensill, with a very significant personal economic interest in the firm. As soon as that had been identified by the Treasury, the fact that he was an ex-Prime Minister should have been irrelevant to the Treasury’s treatment of his approach.
Mr Cameron’s use of less formal means to lobby Government showed a significant lack of judgement, especially given that his ability to use an informal approach was aided by his previous position of Prime Minister. Mr Cameron appears to accept that, at least to some degree, his judgement was lacking.
Though they have been downplayed in evidence to the Committee, there were obvious personal links between Mr Cameron and those he lobbied in Government on Greensill’s behalf. Yet we have not seen evidence of a time or process when and by which the potential risks of those connections were considered by the Treasury, and potential mitigations put in place. The Treasury should have encouraged Mr Cameron at the initial stage of his lobbying into more formal methods of communication, and there should have been a discussion as to whether Mr Cameron’s ongoing contact posed any reputational risks to the Treasury, and whether, as a consequence, mitigation was required.
We accept that Mr Cameron did not break the rules governing lobbying by former Ministers, but that reflects on the insufficient strength of the rules, and there is a strong case for strengthening them. Oversight of policy in this area does not fall within our remit or the terms of reference of this inquiry. We note the ongoing inquiry into the propriety of governance in light of Greensill by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.
So it is very clear from these few words from this document that along with my very strong view that the Charity element of the Lobbying Bill needs to be removed as a matter of priority, but also that the other parts of the Act are clearly inadequate and so the rest of the Act needs to be significantly upgraded or replaced with a more coherent Act.