Exclusive:‘No records’ from meeting between Andrew Griffith MP and lobbyist Betting and Gaming Council

Photo: Kim Mogg/NationalWorld
Experts say it is ‘paramount for public trust in politics’ that the government keeps records of meetings with lobbyists

The Cabinet Office failed to keep any records from a meeting between a senior minister and an industry lobbyist before the publication of the gambling review.

Campaigners have criticised the government for giving “preferential treatment” to the industry while working on the package of reforms, and for a lack of transparency around the meetings.

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NationalWorld has previously reported that industry representatives managed to secure a meeting every month on average in the run up to the publication of the gambling review.

‘Preferential treatment’

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) met with Andrew Griffith on 21 April 2022 to discuss “industry reform,” according to departmental transparency releases. Although the department ultimately responsible for the gambling review was the then-Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Griffith was minister for policy at the Cabinet Office and head of the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit at the time, putting him in a key position to influence the proposed reforms.

In response to an FOI request, asking for a full list of attendees, a copy of the agenda, minutes and correspondence related to the meeting, the Cabinet Office said it does not hold any of the requested information. Records of what was discussed at official meetings should be held by the relevant department, particularly where those meetings involve external lobbyists.

Rose Whiffen, Senior Research Officer at Transparency International UK, said: “Whilst industry representatives can offer useful insight to ministers, they also represent private interests potentially keen to influence government reforms. Failing to keep an accurate record of meetings with paid lobbyists can arouse suspicion and leaves the public in the dark about government policy making. It is therefore paramount for public trust in our politics that ministers maintain thorough records of their external engagements and publish these proactively.”

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The government has been criticised previously for failing to keep records of meetings with external lobbyists, or retrospectively claiming meetings were personal and/or political rather than official, meaning there was no obligation to provide records.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, director of Clean Up Gambling, said: “After what was supposed to be an evidence based process, these 11th hour meetings between the gambling industry and senior figures in Number 10 sought to water down much needed reforms and ultimately led to the delay in the publication of the white paper.

“It’s appalling that the gambling industry has been given preferential treatment while being subject to review.”

Lobbying efforts

Campaigners have previously raised concerns about Griffith’s involvement with the review, given his previous work with Sky, which had the Sky Betting and Gaming brand, where Griffith was a chief financial officer for several years before entering Parliament.

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The BGC was involved in at least seven meetings with the government in 2022, mostly with DCMS ministers. The betting industry has carried out significant lobbying activities in recent years, as the government has been working on a raft of reforms to the industry aimed at tackling gambling addiction.

Gambling companies and the BGC have given MPs tickets and hospitality for a wide variety of events worth around £200,000 since 2020.

Conservative MP Laurence Robertson was recently investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards over a paid role with the BGC. Robertson earns £2,000 per month as an adviser of sport and safer gambling.

A Government spokesperson said: “This was a brief meeting, which was openly and transparently declared on gov.uk.”

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