Leader – Insider danger in the lobby

Lobbying is as old as government itself. Mediaeval kings and their courtiers were surrounded by those peddling favours just as much as are modern ministers. In the battle to win influence, knowledge is the supreme weapon and the person who knows the most will always command the highest price.

So it was tempting to wonder what all the fuss was about this week. Tempting, that is, until an accountant MP pointed out that amid the political hype lay a very real business danger.

Accountancy Age columnist Nick Gibb reminded us that leaking government intentions in advance enabled some people to make a fast buck. If you know the government is going to increase spending on something, you can buy shares in the companies which make it, whether it is warships or bypasses.

Even in the murky world of political morals, this is unethical by anyone’s standards.

Few will be surprised to learn that the Big Five, like most major plcs, use lobbying firms; or that KPMG employs LLM, one of the firms at the heart of the latest lobbying row.

With a review of company law underway and proposals for the regulation of the profession on ministers’ desks, it would be amazing if accountants were not trying to influence the process.

But, while everyone is entitled to take a jaundiced view of some of the fuss being made, members of an ethical profession should never forget the dangers that lurk in lobbying.

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