Big businesses are paying £1,800 a head to attend exclusive invite-only meetings with civil servants and senior Government staff.
The Independent, Guardian, Daily Mail and Telegraph all report on the previously-banned events organised by networking business “Chemistry Club” being attended by officials from large companies such as BP, Google and the Royal Bank of Scotland; as well as numerous senior Government staff, such as Chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander and climate change minister, Lord Taylor.
The Guardian has learned that these private gatherings, which had their ban lifted by the Cabinet Office recently, were also attended by public sector figures from the Metropolitan police and intelligence agency GCHQ, fueling concerns from transparency campaigners that those with the financial means could secure privileged access to government decision makers.
Tamasin Cave, of the transparency group Spinwatch, said the Chemistry Club represented a lobbying industry that was out of control.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Jon Trickett, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: “Here we have a company charging thousands of pounds for dinner with ministers, special advisers and top civil servants. These revelations leave serious questions for David Cameron to answer if he is to avoid the suspicion that lobbyists believe they can buy influence with his government.”
The club stresses its evenings “are not social gatherings but ‘work events'” that “represent an exceptionally good use of attendees’ time”.
Details of meetings were published by the networking business but the Cabinet Office said it had no records of any meetings when questioned by the Guardian in a Freedom of Information request.
Killer drivers back behind the wheel
The DVLA has released figures which show hundreds of convicted killer drivers are back on the road. Among the 625 to get their licences back are 317 drink-drive motorists, 148 who caused death by being careless driving, and 13 who took a life while either unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured. According to The Mirror’s further investigations, more than 5,000 motorists on our roads have three or more drink-drive convictions.