Lobbying companies have no influence over U.K. government policy, Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said after executives at Bell Pottinger, a unit of Chime Communications Plc, were secretly recorded claiming to have access to senior ministers.
Tim Collins, managing director of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, said he had worked for the Conservative Party with Cameron, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Cameron’s chief of staff, Edward Llewellyn, and “there’s not a problem getting messages through,” the Independent newspaper reported, citing an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
“It simply isn’t true to say Bell Pottinger or any other lobbying company has influenced government policy,” Cameron’s spokesman, Steve Field, told reporters in London today. “Clearly it’s in their interests to tell their clients they can provide them with a service, and that’s what they appear to be doing.”
Collins told undercover reporters posing as potential clients from Uzbekistan that he had successfully got Cameron to raise concerns over intellectual-property rights in a meeting with Chinese premier Wen Jiabao during a visit in June, the Independent reported. The request had come from Dyson Ltd., a Bell Pottinger client. Collins was reported as saying, “he was doing it because we asked him to do it,” in a reference to Cameron, and because the issue was in the wider national interest.
Cameron raised the subject because it is a concern for a large number of U.K. companies, and if any company had a similar issue they can contact the prime minister’s office direct without the need for lobbying companies, Field said.
“It would be very odd if the prime minister went to a meeting in China and didn’t raise intellectual property,” Field said. “If a company has an issue and wants the government to look at that issue they can phone someone up in the government. If they want to spend money on lobbyists, that’s a matter for them.”
Tim Bell, chairman of Chime Communications, said Bell Pottinger had been the victim of “an attempt by unethical, underhand deception to manufacture a story where none exists.”
“There is no public interest in this story,” he said in a telephone interview. “There is absolutely no suggestion of any impropriety, illegality or immoral behaviour. I am a great supporter of the freedom of the press and a great believer in self-regulation. This story does nothing to enhance either argument.”