Lobbyists do not have any influence on us, says No 10

CLAIMS that lobbying firms such as Bell Pottinger have influence over government policy have been dismissed as “simply untrue” by David Cameron’s official spokesman.

Calls for a statutory register of lobbyists were stepped up yesterday after it was revealed executives from Bell Pottinger were secretly taped claiming to be able to influence the Prime Minister and other senior coalition figures on behalf of private sector clients.

But Mr Cameron’s spokesman said: “It simply isn’t true to say that Bell Pottinger or any other lobbying company has influenced government policy”, advising they would do better to go through public channels.

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The spokesman added: “Clearly it is in their interests to tell their clients that they can provide them with a service, and that is what they appear to be doing.”

A national newspaper revealed yesterday that undercover reporters from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, posing as agents of the government of Uzbekistan, secretly recorded conversations with Tim Collins, managing director of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs.

Mr Collins allegedly boasted about his access to the PM, Chancellor George Osborne, Mr Cameron’s policy chief Steve Hilton and Downing Street chief of staff Ed Llewellyn.

But Lord Bell, chairman of Bell Pottinger’s parent company Chime Communications, said the firm would be making a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission about the “sting”. “There is no public interest in this story,” said Lord Bell. “There is absolutely no suggestion of any impropriety either. If there was, I would sue them.”

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency called for the immediate introduction of a statutory register of lobbyists.