Below is a full copy of the letter John sent to the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab.
I’m writing in the wake of the report into Russian involvement in British political life, published by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) last week. You will be aware that, amongst other comments, it expresses concern about ‘individuals acting on behalf of a foreign power and seeking to obfuscate this link’ and also mentions ‘the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires anyone other than accredited diplomats – including both US and non-US citizens – who represents the interests of foreign powers in a “political or quasi-political capacity” to register with the Department of Justice, disclosing their relationship with the foreign government and information about related activities and finances. Additionally, US legislation requires agents, other than diplomats, performing non-political activities under the control of foreign governments or foreign officials, to notify the Attorney General’.
As a former Minister for the Constitution with responsibility for political lobbying, as well as the Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Champion, this approach seems very similar to the UK’s existing approach to commercial lobbying of Government Ministers and officials. At the moment, lobbyists who are employees of a specific firm don’t need to register with anyone because, like any country’s accredited diplomatic and embassy staff, it is transparently clear who they work for. But that isn’t automatically true for consultant lobbyists who could be working for a variety of different clients and so, to provide transparency, they must register themselves and their clients with the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists (https://registrarofconsultantlobbyists.org.uk/) so it is clear whose interests they are representing when they meet senior Government figures.
Given the similarities between these two models, and that the Government’s official response to the ISC report says that there is ‘ongoing work on new legislative proposals to identify the benefits for adopting a similar approach in the UK’ it looks as though the existing Registrar might provide a useful template for the Government’s new approach. I would be very interested in your views, and I have copied in my successor as Constitution Minister and the Registrar himself into this letter as well.
MP for Weston, Worle & the villages; Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Champion; Chair of Conservative Policy Forum
cc. Chloe Smith MP, Minister of State for the Constitution and Devolution
Munira Mirza, Director of Number 10 Policy Unit
Harry Rich, Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists