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Ethics watchdog supports extension of lobbying ban for ex-ministers and top officials

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Former PM David Cameron's prolific lobbying career has led to calls for prevention of future abuse by way of strengthening lobbying rules

A leading ethics watchdog has called for greater transparency in the lobbying business, in addition to extending lobbying bans for former ministers and top officials.

In an interim report, the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) asserts that the current two-year ban “may be too short in some cases”.

The influential committee, which advises the Prime Minister on ethical standards across public life in England, has been reviewing current lobbying rules since late last year.

The probe was launched in the wake of the Greensill Capital lobbying row.

The row centered on former Tory Prime Minister, David Cameron’s, persistent attempts to lobby ministers on behalf of the now-collapsed lender and finance firm.

When Cameron was busy lobbying ministers on behalf of the collapsed lender he had barely left the commanding heights of government for two years.   

Publishing its interim findings on Monday (June 14), the CSPL said government departments should have the power to issue longer lobbying bans “where they deem it appropriate”.

However, the committee balanced this by asserting that longer bans should “not become the default”.

More broadly, the report supports the idea of strengthening existing rules by formalizing them into civil servants’ contracts of employment, in addition to establishing “parallel legal arrangements” for ministers.

However, the report’s apparent reluctance to call for a formal imposition of a five-year ban has sparked fears that the eventual outcome and final arrangements may be watered down to accommodate the wishes of former ministers anxious to secure lucrative jobs in the private sector.

Echoing that sentiment, the Labor Party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner called for a strict five-year ban, describing the current rules “completely unfit for purpose”.  

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