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Sunday, September 26, 1999 Published at 19:23 GMT 20:23 UK

UK: Scotland

McLeish: Lobbying out of control

Henry McLeish said the investigation would be thorough

Scotland's Enterprise Minister Henry McLeish says political lobbying is getting out of control.

His remarks come in the light of newspaper allegations which say that Scotland's biggest public relations company, Beattie Media, touted for business by offering privileged access to ministers.

BBC Scotland's Iain Macwhirter quizzes Enterprise Minister Henry McLeish
Mr McLeish said the allegations, made in the Observer newspaper, were serious and that was why the parliament would launch an immediate investigation.

But he criticised the lobbying companies which he said had indulged in the business of "exaggeration".

'Exaggerated statements'

Mr McLeish told BBC Scotland's Holyrood programme: "What I think we have here is a situation where lobbying is getting slightly out of control - exaggerated statements being made about links with ministers, exaggerated comments made about the importance of lobbying in the government process."

"I think in the interests of good government that we've got to tackle not only the question of standards and ministers but also the question of lobbying."

The minister added that the Scottish Executive was taking the allegations seriously and that neither he nor his fellow ministers had anything to hide.

"It's vitally important that we pursue the action taken by Donald Dewar which is to have an inquiry set up by the standards committee of the parliament," said Mr McLeish.

But he insisted there was no proof to show that any minister had breached the code of conduct or any of the standing procedures.

Public assurances

Mr McLeish said: "At the end of the day, we've got to reassure the public that there's probity and integrity in government.

"I'm one of those ministers who has been attacked today and I am very happy indeed for it all to come into the public arena, all of it to be discussed and then we can look at any action that's required after that."

Mr McLeish was asked if he had attended any engagements organised by Beattie Media and replied: "No. I think that's an illustration of what this farrago of allegations is all about.

"We don't need Beattie Media to actually arrange anything for government."

He conceded that the matter was an issue the Scottish parliament did not need at this time.

And he added: "Beattie Media have a rather over-inflated sense of their own importance."

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26 Sep 99 | Scotland
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