Former adviser joins Wonga as a lobbyist: what’s going on?
Author: Zoe Stavri
Published on Oct 30, 2012
Another day, and more questions raised over lobbying practice. Today’s story is of an adviser to David Cameron, Jonathan Luff, resigning, then taking up a new post as an in-house lobbyist for controversial payday loan company Wonga. This has raised questions about the possibility that Luff might use contact with former colleagues to increase his influence in lobbying, and whether Luff may have been informally working with Wonga while he was working at Downing Street.
The government have not yet commented on the story, saying they do not discuss individual cases. This has not stopped the questions: MP Stella Creasy has released a statement outlining the four crucial questions that the government need to answer:
1. The rules on civil service appointments are clear- Someone from such a senior position must have this appointment approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments. Will the Government confirm this has happened and publish the advice given to the committee on this appointment by the Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary?
2. This person also worked on the GREAT Britain campaign promoting British businesses at the Olympics–will he confirm if Wonga was one of those companies involved in this work?
3. Will the Government detail all contact between all number 10 employees and high cost credit companies during Mr Luff’s time of employment including hospitality accepted by Mr Luff as well as any colleagues during this time?
4. Given the current debates on consumer credit regulation, will the Government confirm that the terms of Mr Luff’s appointment forbid him from contacting his previous colleagues to speak on behalf of Wonga and if so for how long this ban on lobbying for Wonga will be in place?
Ms Creasy certainly seems to be asking the right questions here, and it’s yet another case where information about lobbying is not available to us and we therefore cannot decide for ourselves whether this is appropriate or not.
It’s time for change and to shine a light on secretive lobbying. A good place to start with this would be the introduction of a statutory register of lobbyists. We need to show the government that there’s a strong public appetite for transparency.
We’ve written a letter to lobbying minister Chloe Smith asking her to prioritise work on lobbying transparency, will you co-sign? If you’ve already signed the letter, then could you write to your MP to keep the pressure on?