United Kingdom

Backlash over lobbying firm chief on board of business appointments watchdog

The head of the government's business appointments watchdog today dismissed Labour criticism over having a lobbying firm boss on its advisory board.

Lord Pickles insisted Andrew Cumpsty's experience had been 'very useful' in the work of the body.

He said the former Tory councillor was among a range of names put forward to ministers for a post on the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, and praised the 'brave' decision to select him.

According to the Cumpsty Communications website, the firm aims to deliver the 'very best communications, stakeholder engagement, and government relations advice and support'.

It is registered with the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists, and the Acoba website spells out the interests of its board member. 

Lord Pickles insisted Andrew Cumpsty's (pictured) experience had been 'very useful' in the work of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments 

Giving evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee today, Lord Pickles said Mr Cumpsty was on a shortlist of six candidates for the board put forward to ministers

However, shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves told the i newspaper: 'This doesn't just show that Tories can't be trusted to reform lobbying - they don't even know where the line of integrity lies. 

'We need a proper inquiry and to clean up sleaze and cronyism. Instead, the Conservatives voted for another crony cover-up.' 

The i said Mr Cumpsty refused to comment when contacted. 

Giving evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee today, Lord Pickles said Mr Cumpsty was on a shortlist of six candidates for the board put forward to ministers.

'I wanted to give the minister the option of having someone on who had the experience of lobbying,' he said.

'We put the six names up without making a recommendation and the minister chose to put Andrew Cumpsty into that position.

'I think that he was brave to do it because I felt sooner or later a newspaper would turn him over.

'I think I would support the minister's decision. I think it was sensible to get someone with experience. He has proved very useful on these issues.'

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: 'Mr Cumpsty was appointed to the Committee following an open competition, and chosen precisely because of his experience in local government and in public affairs. 

'The Committee needed insight on how the public affairs industry works to help regulate the business appointment process, alongside other members with their own skill sets. His interests are transparently declared on the gov.uk website.

'All board members act in accordance with the prevailing Codes of Conduct and would excuse themselves from any conflicting interest if ever necessary.' 

PACA chair William Wragg was among those questioning Lord Pickles this morning 

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