Clegg Steps Back from Lobbying Reforms Because of Wife's Work
Byline: Jason Groves Political Correspondent
CORRECTION: DUE TO a subbing error, an article in yesterday's paper about Nick Clegg's role in reforming the lobbying industry mistakenly described him as a former director at Bell Pottinger. In fact the reference should have been to Mr Clegg's chief of staff Jonny Oates.
NICK CLEGG has 'abdicated' responsibility for cleaning up the lobbying industry because of fears it could bring him into conflict with his wife's business interests.
The Deputy Prime Minister, once a champion of lobbying reform, has secretly withdrawn from any involvement in overhauling the APS2billion-ayear industry.
Responsibility has been passed to a junior minister. Critics said the decision had left the Government's strategy on lobbying 'rudderless', and helped explain delays in a promised crackdown.
Senior Tories have complained that plans for a statutory register of lobbyists, promised in the Coalition agreement, have been 'gathering dust in Clegg's intray for months'.
Mr Clegg's decision to take a back seat follows concern that a shake-up of the industry could affect the business interests of his wife Miriam, who has held senior positions at firms involved in lobbying.
In October she landed a high-powered role as head of EU trade and government affairs at the U.S. legal firm Dechert - a job that is likely to include lobbying for changes to the law in Brussels. Mrs Clegg previously held a similar post at the international law and lobbying firm DLA Piper.
Aides to Mr Clegg confirmed last night he had 'recused' himself from the lobbying issue because of his wife's interests. The legal term is used when someone disqualifies himself from sitting in judgment because of a real or potential conflict of interest.
A spokesman for Mr Clegg said: 'The Deputy Prime Minister felt it was important there should not be any possibility of the perception of any conflict of interest with the work of his wife and recused himself from leading on the issue.'
Mr Clegg handed responsibility to Mark Harper, a junior minister in the Cabinet Office, earlier this year while his wife was still at DLA Piper. Sources said he would continue to take a back seat even though her new employer does not have a lobbying arm in this country
Aides to Mr Clegg said it was 'unfair' to suggest the move had slowed down plans to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists.
But Tamasin Cave, of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, said: 'The fact that we no longer have a senior minister pushing this through is a serious cause for concern - it leaves the whole thing rudderless. …