Frustrated MPs plan fresh investigation into ‘ineffectual’ Acoba

Written by David Singleton on 25 January 2018 in News

Bernard Jenkin is chair of the public administration and constitutional affairs committee.

MPs are planning to launch a second probe into the body that polices the so-called revolving door between politics and lobbying.

The Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee has said it will revisit its inquiry into the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments because ministers have failed to step up to the plate. "The government is failing to take the faults seriously," said a spokesman for the committee after the government responded to its report on Acoba.

In its original report published in April 2017, the committee said the regulatory system for scrutinising the public employment of former ministers and civil servants was "ineffectual and does not inspire public confidence or respect".

It concluded that the situation had got worse since it looked at the issue in 2012. "The new lobbying rules will still never be effective without clear and transparent monitoring and reporting of lobbying contacts," the report added.

Now the government has responded to each of the report's recommendations. In response to the committee’s call for greater transparency in lobbying, the government argued that it "makes an unprecedented amount of information available to the public" and that the 2014 Lobbying Act has "increased transparency by requiring people who are paid to lobby the Government on behalf of others to disclose their clients on a publicly available register".

However the committee said the government’s response was "inadequate given the seriousness of the issues raised in the report and their potential to undermine public confidence".

A statement issued by the committee continued: "The committee inquiry revealed numerous gaps in Acoba's monitoring process with insufficient attention paid to the principles that should govern business appointments. The failures of governments in this regard have damaged public trust in politics and public institutions and led to repeated scandals. The Committee have decided to relaunch the inquiry at a future date."

Among the new breed of lobbyists to have been let off the hook for breaking the rules on lobbying is Hanbury Strategy co-founder Ameet Gill.

The former aide to David Cameron was reprimanded by Acoba in 2016 for setting up and securing clients for Hanbury without getting the green light from the advisory body. The committee expressed its concern about his behaviour in a damning letter to civil service chief John Manzoni. 

However the committee could not prevent Gill from working on the clients that he did not disclose. Instead it told the former Number 10 aide that he must seek advice for each of his new clients before doing any work for them "as is standard practice for former Crown servants who have set up consultancies following the correct process".

 

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