MP calls for complete ban on third party lobbying

January 29, 2008 12:00 AM

An incident involving a Rochdale planning application was held up as the worst type of 'spinning' by an influential Common's Committee. The committee in the House of Commons has heard evidence about the behaviour of Countryside Properties over the Spodden Valley planning application. The influential Public Administration Select Committee has just started a new investigation into the role of lobbyists in the UK's politics and public life.

Some third party organisations have been caught out deliberately misleading the public, especially over planning applications. Paul Rowen MP is now calling for such activity to be outlawed.

The evidence was compiled by "SpinWatch", a group dedicated to monitoring the role of public relations and spin in Britain.

Mr Rowen, who is one of only 11 cross-party MPs on the committee, said: "I was not surprised that Countryside Properties, amongst others, were held up as an example of what's wrong with the way some organisations behave. I am sure that people in Rochdale have not forgotten how Countryside Properties set up web sites with similar names to the Save Spodden Valley web site - - to confuse people. On that occasion campaigner Jason Addy and the Save Spodden Valley team got in touch with the internet domain name watchdog. They made Countryside Properties apologise and transfer the questionable web site addresses to the Save Spodden Valley group.

"There have been allegations that the lobbying firm involved with Countryside Properties has quite a record in other places of devious and deceptive behaviour, including writing fake letters to MPs and local newspapers that purport to show local support for issues.

"The Public Administration Select Committee is looking into the role of lobbyists in politics and public life, and I hope that the Government will listen to us when we present our official report. There are areas that need looking at, including the role of lobbyists - we need stricter rules that will penalise the kind of tricks we have seen over Spodden Valley.

"Planning applicants stand to make many millions from applications and all we are calling for is fair play and strict penalties for those who mislead! I hope that the Government listen and that any punishment should fit the crime/rewards on the issues that they are prepared to mislead the public about."