The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Chamber Blog: Handshakes, envelopes and dodgy dealings

By Chris Fletcher, Director of Policy and Communications at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Over the last few weeks, the media have once again been focusing on the activity of some elected and unelected politicians and various murky dealings with people purporting to represent various interest groups. This has reignited the whole ‘cash for questions’ issue and paved the way for various announcements and media comments about the work of lobbying groups and their role and influence.

The latest move in this whole saga was the announcement that a lobbyists’ register will be in place before the summer recess, and a number of Parliamentary passes have already been rescinded. There is no doubt that, following years of hesitation, some form of decisive action will now be taken.

As someone who works for an organisation that this could affect, am I happy about this? To be honest, I’m not too sure at what level this would impact. I know that when this was first raised a few years ago, Chambers of Commerce along with Trade Unions and some other organisations were to be classed in a different category from the “professional” lobbying companies, however it now looks like we’ll all be bundled together.

Over the last few years we have built up a great relationship with local MPs of all parties and a good number of ministers and civil servants. The Chamber represents the views of business, feeding back on key issues and supplying relevant information and intelligence – such as our Quarterly Economic Survey. This is a core service we offer on behalf of Chamber members, to make sure that the decision makers and informers have their finger on the local business pulse. If we get some action or response in return, then it’s job done. It’s above board and transparent – I wouldn’t have it any other way, and neither would our members. That’s lobbying.

Cash changing hands and shady meetings isn’t and should have no place in how things work.

I’m not too concerned if my name or indeed the Chamber’s name goes on a register as long as the work and interaction that we have on behalf of our members continues to be effective. If it doesn’t, then there may be problems and who can we then lobby about that?

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