Wales politics

Assembly standards watchdog to report on lobbying regulations

Senedd Image copyright Philip Halling/Geograph

The assembly's standards commissioner, Gerard Elias, is exploring how regulations on lobbying are working at other UK parliaments, it has emerged.

The move comes amid demands from one assembly member for a register of lobbyists in Wales.

First Minister Carwyn Jones told AMs on Tuesday that ministers do not meet formally with lobbyists.

But Plaid Cymru AM Neil McEvoy said that appeared to be a change in stance from the Welsh Government.

The first minister told AMs that the standards commissioner is undertaking work "discussing with other UK Parliaments their arrangements and how they are working in practice".

The commissioner is due to report to the assembly standards committee, which requested the work, later this month.

AMs on the committee are holding their own inquiry into the issue after Scotland and Westminster introduced new rules for the industry. Currently Wales does not have a register of lobbyists.

Mr Elias is due to be replaced by Sir Roderick Evans in December.

Lobbyists are people hired by a business, an organisation or a cause to advocate their case to legislators.

Mr McEvoy has previously said that a register for lobbyists would shed light on who was lobbying for who, and for what.

But an earlier report in 2013 suggested there had been no complaints about the practice in Wales.

Image caption Neil McEvoy brandishes a picture from Twitter during a Senedd debate on lobbying

Mr McEvoy told Mr Jones during First Minister's Questions in the Senedd that a minister "was pictured on Twitter attending an event with a commercial lobbyist" and that on Wednesday the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children Carl Sargeant "is a keynote speaker at a commercial lobbyist event".

"Maybe you can explain to the public and this chamber the contradiction between what you say here, that they don't have access, and what actually is the reality, because we all know they do," he said.

Mr Jones said: "Ministers do speak at events that are organised by organisations, but ministers do not have formal meetings with lobbyists.

"If he is saying that no minister should ever meet, either formally or informally, with anybody who is remotely connected to a lobbying organisation, that's just impractical, given the size of Wales."

"But what we do not do is meet formally with lobbying companies if they seek meetings with ministers. Those meetings never happen on a formal basis."

Mr Jones had said in July that commercial lobbyists do not have access to ministers.

Mr McEvoy tweeted after the meeting that there was a "seeming change of position from the government".

"Now, it's formal meetings don't take place. Previously, no access."

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