Wales politics

Lobbyist group allege government 'pressure' on campaigners

Daran Hill

An organisation representing lobbyists has alleged the Welsh Government has asked campaigners to refrain from saying things it does not agree with.

Daran Hill of Public Affairs Cymru (PAC) said some of its members had faced "pressure" from the government.

The organisation mainly represents lobbyists who work in the voluntary and charity sector.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said it "always engages properly".

It is understood alleged examples include asking for press releases to be amended and for reports not to be launched publicly.

Mr Hill, policy officer at PAC and managing director of public affairs company Positif, said a number of members had given "examples where they felt that people within Welsh Government had, though not regularly but from time to time, put a degree of pressure on them around what they said or did publicly".

"It becomes a problem if what one side is asking the other side to do compromises the other side in some way," he said.

"That would be the same of bad lobbying of government, AMs or officials."

'Double figure numbers'

In evidence to the assembly standard's committee's inquiry on lobbying, PAC said "sometimes lobbyists are lobbied too, be it by officials, special advisers or politicians".

"While accepting this is a natural and normal part of the political discourse, PAC has concerns that in recent years examples have occurred where lobbyists and campaigners have been asked to reconsider standpoints or not to say certain things with which the Welsh Government is not in agreement," the written evidence added.

Mr Hill said the concerns had been raised by "double figure numbers" of PAC's around 200 members.

The Welsh Conservatives said the claims reinforced "the need for greater transparency in the conduct of Welsh politics, and in particular the role of Welsh Labour Government special advisors".

Plaid Cymru's Neil McEvoy called the allegations "serious" and said they must be "fully investigated".

The standards committee is investigating whether there should be more stringent regulations on lobbying in Wales.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said the government "always engages properly with organisations and groups to ensure that the development of policy and legislation is of the highest quality".

"This work is done openly and respectfully," she added.

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