Lobbying regulation - chronology 1990-1999

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Twenty-pound-notes.jpg This article is part of the Lobbying Portal, a sunlight project from Spinwatch.

This page lists the history of debates on Lobbying regulation, in Scotland, the UK, the EU and the US. See also:

1990 - 1999

1990

UK: At the Commons Select Committee on Members’ Interests, Ian Greer admits making payments to MPs in return for business introductions.[1]

February 15th

UK: PR Week reports that the petrol lobby is ready to swing into action ahead of the publication of a Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) report into the industry. PR Week reports:

The MMC investigated all aspects of the oil industry, including allegations of cartels and price fixing. But changes in the relationship between the supplier and retailer form the area of most interest. Early speculation suggests that the status quo will not be altered.
'Shell has a military-style plan which comes into operation as soon as we receive a copy of the MMC report,' says Charles Millar, director of lobby firm Public Policy Consultants, which works for Shell.
'There are plans for a war room with extra fax machines and telephones to cope with media enquiries. It will be staffed by the Shell MMC team, economists, lobbyists and legal advisers with a brief to produce a fast response and give an accurate summary of the implications of the report,' says Millar.[2]

March 4th

UK: The Independent reveals that according to the latest Register of Members' Interests, 10% of all Conservative MPs have links to political lobbying firms or PR companies. The Independent reported:

Thirty-seven of the 373 Conservative MPs in England, Scotland and Wales declare they are owners or directors of, or consultants to, companies which specialise in public relations and public affairs - a euphemism for lobbying.
A survey of the register by The Independent on Sunday did not reveal any Labour, Liberal, SLD or SDP MP who had registered a current interest in this fast-growing industry.[3]

UK: The Independent also reveal that Ian Greer is to be questioned by a Commons select committee after it emerged that Greer himself had admitted in a confidential letter to paying unnamed MPs a commission for introducing clients to him.[4]

May

UK: Dr Michael Rush gives evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Members' Interests. He raises the following points: the register must have a clear purpose; with particular consideration to the question of who would be required to register, what information lobbyists would have to provide, the arrangements for keeping the register up-to-date, questions around access to the register, and whether registration confers and rights or privileges.[5]

In a later article, Rush notes that although the House of Commons’ Select Committee on Members’ Interests considered the registration of lobbyists on four occasions , it was only on the fourth that it recommended a register. He observes: In its most recent report the committee detected a sufficient shift in opinion among professional lobbyists, MPs, academics and other observers to merit recommending a register.[6]

As Rush notes, although the quarterly publication of a register would be ‘primarily informational’, the proposals included a significant regulatory element in the recommendation for a code of conduct. The code would include a complaints and arbitration procedure. Although there is no mention of penalties, being struck off the register would have ‘moral force’ which ‘would probably damage the reputation of the firm concerned’. The responsibility for compiling and maintaining the register would lie with the Registrar of Members’ Interests; with one copy available in the House of Commons Library and an additional copy available for inspection by the public.[6]

May 24th

UK: Ian Greer, chairman of Ian Greer Associates tells the Select Committee on Members' Interests that his company made six 'thank you payments' to unnamed MPs. The Times reports:

Six payments, known by some people in the industry as a "thank you payment", were allegedly made by one firm to three MPs in the past five years. One MP is said to have received three payments, in 1985, 1986 and 1990, a second MP two payments, in 1986 and 1988, and a third one payment, in 1988.
The committee was told payments to the unnamed MPs were made by Ian Greer Associates, a public affairs consultancy, even though the firm's chairman told a Commons select committee in 1988 that it did not retain any peers, MPs or Members of the European Parliament, and that it was completely disassociated from them.[7]

Out of the six 'thank you payments' Greer made only one was declared in the Register of Members' Interests.[7]

UK: Evidence given to the Select Committee on Members' Interests shows that Ian Greer repeatedly refused to identify the MPs involved or the amount of money they received as 'thank you payments'.[8]

UK: Michael Yates, chairman of the Commons select committee on defence, resigns from his position as a consultant for SGL Defence Limited due to a possible conflict of interest. The Times reports:

Mr Mates acted as a consultant to SGL Defence Ltd, a public relations company, which specialises in the defence field. It offers advice to manufacturers tendering for defence contracts along with providing strategic advice on developments in defence markets.
He has always insisted that there was no conflict of interest between his two roles because he did not deal with SGL Defence clients but gave advice to the company.[9]

July 5th

UK: Ahead of the publication of the Commons select committee report looking into the activities of lobbyists at Westminster, a secret gathering of top lobbyists is to consider how best to clean up the image of the industry. According to PR Week:

The meeting has been organised by Peter Danton de Rouiffignac, a Brussels lobby specialist. He has written to all the top British lobby firms inviting them to meet in London on July 16.
The move comes as the final touches are being added to the select committee on members' interests report into lobbying.
The meeting's agenda will include a look at possible European and domestic regulation of the industry, self-regulation and the 'desirability of countering adverse publicity or going on to the offensive.'[10]

1991

January 1st

EU: Wendy Deller, European Affairs Manager for Ian Greer Associates writes a guide to lobbying in the Investors Chronicle. In the piece Deller states:

The EC decision-taking structure lends itself to lobbying activities. The Brussels machine is in fact a relatively small bureaucracy and is dependent on input from outside sources. There are plenty of opportunities for consultation with the various institutions. Many of the key Single Market proposals are currently at the consultative stage and now is the time for companies to participate positively in the process.[11]

February 21st

UK: Ferranti International, a defence and electronics firm, hires Ian Greer Associates to repair its damaged image. The company has been troubled with months of fraud allegations, litigation in the US, job losses and the sale of a division to GEC.[12]

March 28th

World / EU: The Malaysian government turns to lobby firm Ian Greer Associates in order to protect its tropical hardwood export industry. It comes after environmentalists launched a campaign against the importation of tropical hardwood. In 1990 the European Parliament adopted a resolution banning tropical hardwood from Malaysia. PR Week reports:

Europe, along with Japan and the US, is among the biggest importers of tropical hardwood in the world.
'The Malaysian government believes it has taken actions which have not been properly communicated,' said IGA project manager Patrick Ferreira. 'We will be getting the case across to EC ministers and monitoring any legislation which will affect exports into Europe.'[13]

September 30th

UK: The long awaited Commons select committee report into lobbying is published. Recommendations in the report include:

  • MPs should no longer able to accept money from lobbyists who seek to exert influence or seek to have questions asked in parliament on their behalf.
  • All payments and salaries paid to MPs are to be entered into a public register by the PR or lobby company in question.
  • Payments to MPs dependent on achieving favourable results for clients of lobbyists are to be banned.
  • Commercial lobby groups will have to declare themselves on a register and abide by a strict code of ethics. Charities and pressure groups are to be exempt from this.[14]

The reports recommendations will need approval from MPs before they can come into effect.

1992

June

UK: Lobby firm Ian Greer Associates is forced to end a contract with Serbian industrialists following the introduction of UN Sanctions against Yugoslavia.[15]

August 21st

EU / UK: The Independent publish a piece by Tom O'Sullivan covering the PR offensive carried out by all sides involved in the war in Yugoslavia. It highlights the role of UK lobbyists in the public relations war between the main protagonists. O'Sullivan reports:

As important, however, is the use of PR to appeal to the international community. Record of the United States Justice Department show the extent to which PR and lobbying firms have been used:
Serbia - Wise Communications in Washington received a total of $ 304,000 (pounds 157,000) from the Serbian-owned oil company Jugopetrol. The firm worked indirectly for the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic.
In Britain, a group of Serbian businessmen hired Ian Greer Associates to organise a lobby of Westminster, communicate the Serbian message, and prevent economic sanctions by the European Community. Both companies stopped working on the separate accounts when the United Nations imposed worldwide sanctions in June.
Croatia - Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs was hired by the Republic of Croatia in August 1991 to lobby in Washington on its behalf. In the period to the end of 1991 it was paid $ 46,000.
In Britain, Croatian representatives entered negotiations with lobbying firms, including Hill and Knowlton, offering pounds 500,000 for a campaign to win official recognition and raise the profile of Croatia.
Bosnia - Ruder Finn has also now been engaged by Bosnia-Herzegovina to raise its profile and lobby in Washington. The move is a reflection of the military pact drawn up between the two republics, despite Croatia's involvement in the carve-up of Bosnia.
Slovenia has established its own office in Washington to handle PR. It also employs Phyllis Kaminsky, an adviser to Ruder Finn, to handle some lobbying and PR work.[16]

1993

January 28th

UK: The new register of MPs interests reveals that 38 MPs have links to PR agencies.[17]

June

UK: House of Commons debates register of lobbyists.

The proposal for a register of lobbyists is debated by the House of Commons , nearly two years after the presentation of the report by the Select Committee on Members’ Interests. Rush argues that this ‘provides clear evidence, if any were needed, that it was not a matter high on the Government’s agenda’.[6] The most significant objection of the government was that the reform would simply give an apparent ‘seal of approval’ to those registered, thereby be of most benefit to the lobbyists themselves. Favouring a voluntary code, the government referred the issue back to the committee which subsequently re-examined its proposal.[6]

Referring to what he describes as ‘The most striking lesson of the Canadian experience’[6], Rush argues that registering lobbyists has been of most value to those within the public affairs industry itself; as professional lobbyists now have a resource with which to monitor their competitors and identify potential new clients. He contests that the British government is therefore vindicated in its contention that a register would be of principal benefit to lobbyists themselves. He concedes that other lessons have been learned; namely that any register should include lobbying of the House of Lords and ‘the most important actors in the political process’: ministers and civil servants; in addition to those who directly represent (direct advocacy), those who advise (information gatherers) should be required to register; and that clearer definitions of lawyers and professional lobbyists be reached.

Rush argues that while there is no doubt that registering lobbyists can contribute to open government, there is no evidence that informational schemes have a significant impact on lobbying itself unless the information requested ‘exposes or is likely to expose lobbying abuses’.[6] Beyond the disclosure of information about fees, expenditure, and records of contacts, Rush suggests that ‘registration tends to become regulatory and the purpose of regulation is to create and maintain norms of behaviour’.[6] These norms can be enshrined in codes of conduct, legislation against certain practices, or a combination of both these approaches.

1994

May

UK: Forced by the Ian Greer affair to confront the problems it had previously been avoiding, the public affairs industry takes action to convince decision makers and the public about its apparent commitment to ‘ethical standards’. To this end, five consultancies came together to establish the self-regulatory Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) under the chairmanship of Andrew Gifford, founding director of lobbying firm GJW.[18] The APPC developed its own code of conduct and makes publicly available its register of clients. It purports to enforce a ban on financial relationships with politicians.[1]

The APPC is backed by five of the leading lobbying consultancies - GJW, Ian Greer Associates, Market Access, Public Policy Unit and Westminster Strategy.[19]

The launch of the APPC puts an end to any hopes of a single industry-wide initiative to clean up the image of lobbyists. The APPC has banned all financial links to MPs whilst the PRCA does not feel such a provision is necessary.[20]

July

UK: The story of the ‘cash-for-questions’ scandal breaks, in which a Sunday Times reporter posing as a businessman offered twenty MPs £1000 in exchange for tabling a parliamentary question. Conservative MPs Graham Riddick and David Treddinick are fined and suspended from parliament. As a result of the furore, then Conservative Prime Minister John Major establishes the Nolan Committee.[21]

July 11th

UK: MPs give their reaction to the 'cash-for-questions' scandal involving Conservative MPs Graham Riddick and David Treddinick. Michael Portillo argues against further regulation saying "We don't want any more rules. We already have a rule which says if you take money for any purpose you must declare it publicly in a register.". [22] Roger Gale, chairman of the Tory media committee, took aim at the Sunday Times, demanding the investigation into cash-for-questions be widened to include "possible entrapment by News International journalists".[22] However, others were damning of the two MPs involved. David Mellor said "I think it's outrageous that people should be paid money for tabling Parliamentary questions" whilst acting shadow leader of the Commons, Nick Brown, branded it "political prostitution".[22]

September 3rd

UK: In the wake of the 'cash-for-questions' scandal involving Conservative MPs Graham Riddick and David Tredinnick, four MPs give up their work for the political consultancy firm Westminster Communications. The four MPs in question are Conservative MPs Sir Marcus Fox and Sir Keith Speed, Labour MP Ann Taylor and Liberal Democrat MP Menzies Campbell.[23]

September 4th

UK: Conservative MP Sir Marcus Fox announces that along with giving up his work for Westminster Communications he will also be selling his shareholding in the company. Westminster Communications is attempting to join the APPC where payments to MPs are forbidden.[24]

September 27th

UK: The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (IPR) and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) jointly launch a register of lobbyists. Both organisations will keep separate registers based upon an agreed code of conduct but will jointly publish their registers on an annual basis. Neither the IPR or PRCA will ask their members to give up consultancy links with MPs as the APPC has demanded of their membership.[25]

The Guardian names seven MPs who will appear on the joint IPR/PRCA register:

The joint IPR/PRCA register includes seven Conservative MPs: former Cabinet minister David Mellor, who acts as a consultant for Shandwick Consultants; Simon Burns, who acts for Scope Communications; Charles Hendry, who acts for Fleishman Hillard; Nigel Forman, who acts for Gavin Anderson and Co; Sir George Gardiner, chairman of the rightwing 92 group, who acts for Leedex PR; Roger Gale, who acts for TMA Communications; and Sir Fergus Montgomery, who acts for Welbeck Golin.
Mike Beard, IPR president, defended the decision to continue to employ MPs as consultants as "the right of any member of our organisation".[26]

September 28th

EU: Brussel based lobbyists launch their own European public affairs code of conduct. 19 lobbying consultancies back the code which prohibits the giving of any financial inducements to European Union officials.[27]

October 20th

UK: In a second scandal, first reported in The Guardian, it emerges that Greer had paid Conservative MPs Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith to table parliamentary questions on behalf of Al-Fayed. Smith admits having accepting payments of £2000 per question directly from Al-Fayed - rather than from Ian Greer, as was alleged in the original Guardian report. Hamilton and Greer initiate libel proceedings against the newspaper.[21] Greer famously said to Al-Fayed, regarding his feud with Roland "tiny" Rowland over the sale of the House of Fraser, ‘You need to rent an MP just like you rent a London taxi’.[28]

UK: Tim Smith, one of the five MPs who made up the 'Al-Fayed group', resigns as Northern Ireland Minister over allegations that he received money from Mohamed Al-Fayed to lobby on his behalf.[29] During a Guardian investigation in 1993 Smith denied he had received any payments from Mohamed Al-Fayed. However, in his resignation letter to John Major, Smith stated "Mr Al Fayed paid me fees."[30]

October 21st

UK: Neil Hamilton, who is accused of receiving payments from Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, insists he has the full backing of Prime Minister John Major. Hamilton said "If I didn't have his full support I wouldn't be in this Government."[31]

October 25th

UK: Responding to concerns in the wake of the cash-for-questions affair, then Prime Minister John Major makes an announcement in the House of Commons announcing the establishment and terms of reference of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. Often referred to as the ‘Nolan Committee’, Sir Michael Nolan chairs the Committee from its establishment until November 1997.[32] According to an obituary in The Guardian following his death in January 2007, Nolan ‘made a profound mark on national life by substantially cleansing the Augean stable of corrupt politics as founding chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life’.[33] Only days after his appointment, Nolan demonstrated his independence; announcing his intention that the Committee sit in public and thereby contradicting Major’s statement that the Committee would ‘probably sit in private’.[33]

UK: Neil Hamilton is forced to resign as Corporate Affairs Minister after Prime Minister John Major made it clear that due to the allegations against him, it would be impossible for him to carry out his responsibilities effectively.[34]

November 2nd

UK: The first meeting of the APPC is held. Among the topics discussed is the ongoing saga involving Ian Greer and accusations that Greer made payments in return for MPs asking questions in Parliament.[35]

November 21st

UK: The latest update to the Register of Members' Interests is published and it shows that more than 70 MPs have declared new business interests since January 1994. It also shows that Eight MPs have ended their links with lobbying and PR firms, five of whom did so after the APPC prohibited its members from having any financial links with MPs.[36]

November 22nd

UK: The Members' Interests Committee consider a complaint from Alex Carlile MP over allegations that Neil Hamilton took cash for questions and failed to declare stays at the Ritz hotel, owned by Mohamed Al Fayed.[37]

1995

January 19th

UK: Despite the fact that the Nolan Inquiry is still ongoing, Lord Nolan proposes the introduction of an independent authority with the power to regulate MPs financial affairs. Lord Nolan said:

It seems plain from the evidence so far that the rules on MPs' connections with lobbyists need to be tightened up, that MPs need much better guidance on what is and what is not acceptable, and that the declaration of interests must be made in more detail.

Nolan added:

It is also reasonably clear that we need to consider in detail the possible introduction of an independent element into Parliament's current arrangements for self-regulation.[38]

May 11th

UK: The First Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, ‘Standards in Public Life’, is published;[32] provoking what Roth describes as ‘shrieks of protest’.[33] Nolan’s Report stated that MPs should declare incomes gained from acting as parliamentary consultants; they should not be able to work as paid agents on behalf of lobbyists; and they should end their self-regulation with the introduction of a permanent and independent parliamentary commissioner.[33] The Report set out the ‘Seven Principles of Public Life’ (the ‘Nolan Principles’) as follows:

  • Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
  • Integrity – Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
  • Objectivity – In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
  • Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
  • Openness – Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
  • Honesty – Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
  • Leadership - Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.[39]

June 8th

UK: The Members' Interests Committee conclude that although Neil Hamilton was "imprudent" not to have registered his stay at the Ritz, no further action will be taken.[37]

November

UK: PR Week reports that despite having apparently ‘captured the moral high ground’ by setting up its own register of lobbyists, the APPC remained ‘coy’ about revealing the contents of the register. During the making of a Channel 4 Dispatches programme on peers and their outside interests, Observer Films attempted to gain access to the register - and were duly informed that the contents were not open to the public. This was confirmed by then APPC Secretary and managing director of the lobbying firm Public Policy Unit, Charles Miller, who explained that the register was only available to MPs, Peers, APPC members and their clients: ‘it does not exist to feed salacious stories in the media’. However, this position was not uniformly agreed upon within the industry.[40] Michael Burrell of Westminster Strategy, one of the founders of the APPC, remarked ‘We were trying to promote greater transparency and disclosure. My view is the register should be made available to journalists’. Miller responded: If other members feel like Michael, I dare say we will open it up... we are going to have think very carefully about way the clients are listed at present - it’s too easily misinterpreted.[40]

November 15th

UK: Sir Gordon Downey becomes Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards serving the Committee for Standards and Privileges.[37]

1996

March

UK: The APPC announces its intention to move to publishing its previously annual register of membership twice yearly. Additionally, whereas the register could previously only be accessed via the Association offices in Rochester Row, it was now to be available by post. Michael Burrell remarks that ‘Some members felt that yearly publication meant the register was too historic’.[41]

May 16th

UK: The Second Report, ‘Local Public Spending Bodies’, of the Committee on Standards in Public Life is published.[32]

July 4th

UK: The Defamation Bill gains Royal Assent. The bill alters the 300-year-old Bill of Rights and allows MPs to waive Parliamentary privilege. The effect of this is that Neil Hamilton can now give evidence in court on statements he made in the House of Commons.[37][42]

September 30th

'A liar and a cheat', The Guardian front page after both Neil Hamilton and Ian Greer drop their libel cases against the paper. 1 October 1996. Image courtesy of Jon Slattery

UK: Neil Hamilton and Ian Greer drop their libel suit against the Guardian over the "cash for questions" scandal just hours before the case was due to start. The Guardian reported:

Neil Hamilton, the disgraced former minister, yesterday walked away in humiliation from a £10 million libel suit against the Guardian over the "cash for questions" scandal hours before the case was due to start today.
The former trade minister abandoned the case and agreed to pay some of the Guardian's costs after a bitter two-year battle. He had recruited 421 Conservative MPs and peers, including Lady Thatcher, Lord Archer and cabinet members to change a 300-year-old law, which had prevented him, as an MP, bringing his action.
Ian Greer, the parliamentary lobbyist, also dropped his claim, part of the same libel suit, just minutes before a legal deadline to do so. He, too, agreed to pay some of the paper's costs.
The Guardian stated on October 20, 1994, that Mr Hamilton had received thousands of pounds for asking parliamentary questions for Mohamed Al Fayed's Harrods group. Mr Greer, who had been retained by Mr Al Fayed, was identified as the middleman.[43]

From the BBC:

Libel case is dropped following exposure that Mr Hamilton, as a junior Trade Minister, told his boss, Michael Heseltine, that he did not have a financial relationship with Mr Greer, although he had received two £5,000 commission payments for the introduction of new business.
This led to a "conflict of interests" between Mr Greer and Mr Hamilton which meant that they required two separate lawyers - which they could not afford, thus having to drop the case.[37]

October

UK: The APPC announces that it will be extending its code of conduct to ban its members from having financial links with sitting peers and MEPs, as well as MPs and public servants. Members are also explicitly prohibited from making contributions to political parties. The Association reports that it is ‘stepping up its marketing efforts’; investigating the creation of ‘developing a new visual identity’; and creating an online presence.[44]

October 1st

UK: Neil Hamilton declares that he will attempt to clear his name by taking his case to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Gordon Downey. This follows Hamilton's decision to drop libel proceedings against The Guardian newspaper over the 'cash-for-questions' affair. Ian Greer also drops his libel case against The Guardian.[45]

October 3rd

An article by Alex Salmond published in The Herald, 9 October 1996.

UK: Prime minister John Major states that he will forward all 'cash for questions' evidence to Sir Gordon Downey for him to consider.[37]

1997

January 16th

UK: A Channel 4 documentary about the 'cash for questions' scandal, entitled 'A Question of Sleaze', is transmitted. It includes an interview with Mohamed Al Fayed.[46]

April 8th

UK: BBC war correspondent Martin Bell enters the fray and decides to stand as an anti-corruption candidate. The Guardian reports:

Mr Bell, wearing the white suit he made famous covering the Bosnian war, told a London press conference that the hostility towards Mr Hamilton he had found on a visit to Tatton had made a deep impression on him.
"I have been aware of the deep unhappiness of the people there. It's as if there's a kind of poison in the democratic system which means (it) is not able to operate," he said.
He insisted he was an independent, though he had been prompted to stand by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats. As the anti-corruption candidate, he knew he would face intense scrutiny of his private life and offered to throw open his bank accounts and tax returns to any reporter who wanted to investigate. He described standing as scarier than facing Sniper Alley in Sarajevo.[47]

June 21st

'He lied and lied and lied', The Guardian, 21 June 1997

UK: After the collapse of Jonathan Aitken's libel trial, The Guardian calls on the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute Jonathan Aitken for perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The Guardian reported:

Aitken, the former cabinet minister, discontinued his libel action against the Guardian and Granada Television after new evidence proved he had lied to the High Court. He now faces public disgrace and a legal bill for pounds 1.8 million.
Aitken, who lost his Thanet South seat at the election, failed to turn up for yesterday's two-minute hearing, in which his counsel, Charles Gray QC, agreed Aitken would pay almost all of the defendants' legal bill.

The Guardian article continues:

The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, last night wrote to Paul Condon, the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Dame Barbara Mills, to investigate what he described as 'a well-laid and carefully co-ordinated conspiracy to pervert the course of justice'.[48]

July 3rd

UK: A report commissioned by Parliament is published by Sir Gordon Downey, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards serving the newly-formed Committee for Standards and Privileges. In the report, ‘Complaints from Mr Mohamed Al Fayed, The Guardian and others against 25 Members and former Members’, Greer, Hamilton and Smith are cleared of the original allegation that Greer had paid the MPs to table questions. However, Downey rules that the testimonies from three of Al-Fayed’s employees that they processed cash payments to Hamilton amounted to ‘compelling evidence’; though he refutes their claims that payments were processed to Greer. In the eventual Hamilton/Al-Fayed libel trial at the High Court in 1999, Hamilton loses and is ordered to pay costs; eventually declaring himself bankrupt in 2001.[21]

July 8th

UK: The Third Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, ‘Standards of Conduct in Local Government in England, Scotland and Wales’, is published.[32]

November 7th

UK: The Fourth Report, ‘Review of Standards of Conduct in Executive NDPBs, NHS Trusts and Local Public Spending Bodies’, of the Committee on Standards in Public Life is published and Lord Nolan is succeeded as chairman by Sir Patrick Neill QC. On the 12th November, Prime Minister Tony Blair extends the Committee’s terms of reference: ‘To review issues in relation to the funding of political parties, and to make recommendations as to any changes in present arrangements’.[32]

1998

March

UK: The APPC sets out to review its sponsorship rules to consider allowing the sponsorship of political events by lobbyists' clients. Although the existing rule prohibited members from causing a client to give financial incentives to public servants (or persons acting on their behalf), representatives or employees of Parliament; except for entertainment and token business mementos, APPC secretary Charles Miller remarked:

We’ve all broken that rule. If approached by Government, lobbyists should be able to ask their clients whether they are interested, but they can’t push anybody - a lobbyist’s first duty is to the client... Labour is increasingly wooing business directly through the party’s business unit and not through lobbyists anyway.[49]

July

UK: The series ‘Lobbygate: Cash for Access’ is published by Greg Palast and Antony Barnett in The Observer.[50] The investigative accuses three consultancies (two of which are members of the APPC) of unethical behaviour; particularly with regard to bragging about having close links to politicians. The APPC launched an inquiry from which emerged a series of recommendations endorsed by the Association and designed to foster a ‘culture of compliance’ with the APPC code of conduct amongst member consultancies; prompting APPC 2006 management committee member Michael Burrell to conclude:

Partly as a result – and while there will never be room for complacency – one could reasonably claim that the professional political consultancy business in the UK today has one of the best ethical track records of any in the world.[1]

July 12th

Government's open door to lobbyists, Observer, 12 July 1998

July 17th

UK: The APPC comes out in support of a single lobbyists’ code, despite traditionally opposing the idea of running a joint code with the Institute of Public Relations (IPR, now Chartered Institute of Public Relations) and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA). The APPC had previously resisted closer association with the PR industry, holding lobbying to be a distinct industry. The PRCA, however, also represents full service agencies such as Hill and Knowlton and Burson-Marsteller which run large lobbying operations - and are not members of the APPC.[51]

October 13th

UK: The Fifth Report, ‘The Funding of Political Parties in the United Kingdom’, of the Committee on Standards in Public Life is published.[32]

Lobbygate splash in the Observer, 26 September 1999

1999

September 26th

Scotland: The Observer breaks the Scottish 'Lobbygate' story:

New Labour is today embroiled in a fresh scandal over its contacts with political lobbyists. A lobbying firm claims to be able to fix meetings with Ministers and influence the diary of a top Minister in the Scottish Executive.
Scotland's First Minister, Donald Dewar, last night called for an investigation of the lobbyists' claims. It is less than 15 months since The Observer revealed how lobbyists close to Tony Blair's inner circle were offering their clients meetings at No. 10 and insider information.
At the centre of the affair is Kevin Reid, the son of the Scottish Secretary and leading Blair ally Dr John Reid. Kevin worked for the Labour Party before joining the PR agency Beattie Media to head its political lobbying arm.
In a secretly filmed meeting with an Observer reporter posing as a potential client, Reid boasted: 'I know the Secretary of State very, very well because he's my father.'
Beattie launched its lobbying arm last summer when it appointed Jack McConnell, then General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party.
The Observer's businessman was told McConnell had been taken on 'in the certain knowledge that Jack would get a safe seat from the Labour Party', said a Beattie director, 'and in the hope and expectation that he would also get a Cabinet position within the new administration.'
After quitting Beattie's lobbying arm, McConnell became Scotland's Finance Minister.
In a meeting with The Observer's businessman, Reid and Beattie Media director Alex Barr claimed the firm had:
  • Helped persuade Transport Minister Lord Macdonald to grant transshipment rights at Prestwick Airport to US couriers Federal Express;
  • Been able to place an engagement in his diary through a former Beattie employee who had become his personal assistant.
A government spokesman yesterday confirmed that Galbraith had been lobbied at a Rangers game, but strongly denied Labour had included the policy in its manifesto as a result.[52]

October 13th

UK: A Consultation Paper setting out the issues and questions that the Committee on Standards in Public Life proposes to consider in its review of recommendations in its First Report is published. [32]

October 24th

Two executives of Beattie Media, Kevin Reid and Alex Barr boasted of the influence they had with ministers.

Scotland: Jack McConnell refutes allegations that evidence to go before the Scottish Parliament's inquiry into the Lobbygate affair had been destroyed. The BBC report:

Newspaper reports said records of contacts between Mr McConnell and his secretary and the lobbyists at the centre of the controversy would not be available to the parliament's standards committee.
However, Mr McConnell has issued a statement in which he described the allegations as "totally untrue" and said he was the victim of a smear campaign.
The committee is due to hear evidence on Monday from Mr McConnell and his secretary Christina Marshall following allegations that lobbyists from Beattie Media were offering improper access to ministers and Mr McConnell in particular.[53]

November 18th

'Hamilton 'took £30,000 bribe'', BBC, 18 November 1999

Scotland: Standards Committee (1999), “Report of an inquiry into matters brought to the attention of the committee by The Observer newspaper”, First Report, SP paper 27, ST/99/R1, 18 November, para 34-35, available at: www.scottish.parliament.uk/s1/official_report/cttee/ stan99-00/str01-1.htm#conclusions

UK: Neil Hamilton's libel case against Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed begins at the High Court in London. The BBC reports:

Former MP Neil Hamilton was a corrupt politician "on the make and on the take", the High Court has heard at the start of his libel case against Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed.
George Carman, QC, making his opening speech for Mr al-Fayed, told Mr Justice Morland and the jury of six men and six women that the case was all about "corruption in politics".
Mr al-Fayed says Mr Hamilton accepted money from him to ask parliamentary questions on his behalf.[54]

December 22nd

UK: After 5 weeks the jury of the libel action, brought by Mr. Hamilton against Mr Al Fayed, returns its verdict. The Guardian reports:

Neil Hamilton's five-year fight to clear his name ended in ignominious defeat and financial ruin last night when a high court jury unanimously declared the former Conservative MP corrupt.
The result ended any hopes he may have harboured of resuming his political career, condemning him as a greedy man who had been "on the make and on the take" during his time in parliament.
The verdict, delivered in the highly-charged atmosphere of a crowded court 13 at the high court in London, was a dramatic finale to the bruising five-week libel trial brought by the former minister against the owner of Harrods, Mohamed Al Fayed. It brought to an end his protracted battle to clear his name of the cash-for-questions controversy first reported by the Guardian in 1994.
After almost nine hours of deliberation, the jury returned to court yesterday to deliver its verdict. Asked whether members had found "on the balance of probabilities" that Mr Fayed had established corruption by Mr Hamilton "on highly convincing evidence", their forewoman replied: "Yes."[55]


Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Burrell, M. 'History of lobbying & of the APPC', APPC, 2006.
  2. Tom O'Sullivan, 'Oil giants rev up for DTI', PR Week, 15 February 1990.
  3. Rosie Waterhouse, 'One in 10 Tory MPs linked to PR firms', The Independent, 4 march 1990.
  4. Rosie Waterhouse, 'Commons to investigate secret payments to MPs', The Independent, 4 march 1990.
  5. Rush, M. 'Memorandum from Dr Michael Rush, University of Exeter', Evidence on parliamentary lobbying, 1990.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 Rush, M. Rush, M.R 'Registering the Lobbyists: Lessons from Canada', Political Studies, 4: 630-645, 1994.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Richard Ford, 'MPs did not declare 'thank you' payments', The Times, 24 May 1990.
  8. Alan Travis, 'Lobbyist 'sent fees as thank-you to MPs': Committee denied amounts and names of three'], The Guardian, 24 May 1990.
  9. Richard Ford, 'Mates quits consultancy after dispute on interests', The Times, 25 May 1990.
  10. Tom O'Sullivan, 'Lobbyists to clean up act', PR Week, 5 July 1990.
  11. Wendy Deller, 'Europe In 1991: Lobbying: Taking Europe Seriously - The inter-governmental conferences held in December have made EC decisions even more influential. A lobbyist explains how businesses can get in on the decision-making process', Investors Chronicle, 4 January 1991.
  12. Tom O'Sullivan, 'Ferranti calls in Ian Greer', PR Week, 21 February 1991.
  13. Tom O'Sullivan, 'Malaysians pick Greer to fight EC timber ban threat', PR Week, 28 March 1991.
  14. Rosie Waterhouse, 'MPs urged to clamp down on lobby fees', The Independent, 29 September 1991.
  15. Tom O'Sullivan, 'Major rules out Serb lobbying', PR Week, 29 April 1993.
  16. Tom O'Sullivan, 'Truth is the first casualty in PR offensive', The Independent, 2 August 1992.
  17. Tom O'Sullivan, 'Calling the House to order: Despite all the talk of curbs, there is still a cosy relationship between MPs and PR agencies', PR Week, 28 January 1993.
  18. Bevan, S. 'PROFILE: Andrew Gifford, GJW; Charmer with political clout', PR Week UK, 08.03.96.
  19. 'Public affairs firms set up industry body', PR Week, 26 May 1994.
  20. Steve Bevan, 'Industry bodies unite to relaunch register', PR Week, 22 July 1994.
  21. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Peter Oborne, Toughen up payment rules say outraged MPs', Evening Standard, 11 July 1994.
  22. Maurice Chittenden and Mark Skipworth, 'Four MPs quit firm after cash-for-questions storm', Sunday Times, 4 September 1994.
  23. Steve Doughty, 'Tory's clean break. Sir Marcus cuts links with lobby firm as MPs try to improve their public image', Daily Mail, 5 September 1994.
  24. 'PR bodies launch lobby list', PR Week, 16 September 1994.
  25. David Hencke, 'Lobbyists split over registers', The Guardian, 28 September 1994.
  26. Steve Bevan, 'Brussels lobbyist code of conduct launched', PR Week, 30 September 1994.
  27. Hencke, D.'Tory MPs were paid to plant questions says Harrods chief', The Guardian, 20 October 1994.
  28. 'Key Resignations & Dismissals in the 1992-1997 Parliament', BBC, 1997.
  29. David Pallister, 'Corruption in the Commons: Tim Smith', The Observer, 29 September 1996.
  30. Press Association, 'At Westminster today', 21 October 1994.
  31. 32.0 32.1 32.2 32.3 32.4 32.5 32.6 'History of the Committee', Committee on Standards in Public Life, 2010
  32. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 Roth, A. 'Obituary: Lord Nolan, Committee chairman charged with keeping MPs up to standard', The Guardian, 26.01.07.
  33. Michael White, 'The Sinking of Hamilton', The Guardian, 26 October 1994
  34. Steve Bevan, 'Lobbyist Association To Discuss Greer Row', PR Week, 28 October 1994.
  35. Steve Bevan, 'Public affairs firms cool links with MPs', PR Week, 9 December 1994.
  36. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 37.4 37.5 BBC Research, 'Neil Hamilton - A chronology', BBC, 19 October 1998.
  37. Michael Dynes, 'Nolan acts quickly to curb MPs' links with lobbyists', The Times, 20 January 1995.
  38. 'The Seven Principles of Public Life (or the Nolan Principles', Commissioner for Public Appointments, 2010.
  39. 40.0 40.1 'DIARY: APPC is coy about revealing register', PR Week UK, 10.11.95.
  40. 'DIARY: APPC moves towards easy register access', PR Week UK, 15.03.96.
  41. Kevin Williams, '‘Only Flattery is Safe’: Political Speech and the Defamation Act 1996', The Modern Law Review, Volume 60, Issue 3, pages 388–393, May 1997.
  42. David Hencke, David Leigh and David Pallister, 'A liar and a cheat', The Guardian, 1 October 1996.
  43. Dowman, R. 'NEWS: APPC takes action to maintain integrity', PR Week UK, 25.10.96.
  44. Gavin Cordon and Alison Little, 'Growing clamour over cash-for-questions probe', Press Association, 1 October 1996.
  45. Guardian staff and agencies, 'Chronology - How the scandal unfolded', The Guardian, 22 December 1999.
  46. David Hencke and Ewen Macaskill, 'I'll fight this poison', The Guardian, 8 April 1997.
  47. Luke Harding and David Pallister, 'He lied and lied and lied', The Guardian, 21 June 1997.
  48. Barker, S. ‘APPC reviews sponsorship rules’, PR Week UK, 27.03.98.
  49. Palast, G. and Barnett, A. 'Lobbygate: Cash for Access', The Observer, July 1998.
  50. Barker, S. ‘APPC lends support to single lobbyists code’, PR Week UK, 17.07.98.
  51. Dean Nelson and Ben Laurance Exposed: Lobbygate comes to Scotland Dewar demands investigation after PR firm claims it influenced policy, The Observer, Sunday 26 September 1999 13.56 BST
  52. 'Scotland Minister denies destruction of evidence', BBC, 24 October 1999.
  53. 'Hamilton 'took £30,000 bribe'', BBC, 18 November 1999.
  54. Matt Wells, Jamie Wilson and David Pallister, 'A greedy, corrupt liar', The Guardian, 22 December 1999.