Skip to the content

MPs call for more transparency over instant messaging platforms in government


Mark Say Managing Editor

Get UKAuthority News


Houses of Parliament
Image source:

A committee of MPs has called for more transparency and the possible blocking of the use of instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp in how government ministers and officials communicate with third parties.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) has taken the stance in a new report on lobbying in Parliament, saying that non-corporate communications channels (NCCCs) should be subject to the same disclosure regime as face-to-face meetings.

This follows its inquiry prompted by the controversy over Greensill Capital’s interaction with ministers and officials that exposed weaknesses in existing lobbying rules.

The report includes the observation that official guidance on the use of NCCCs is that they are not deemed as sufficient contact to be included in departmental transparency releases. But the use of WhatsApp and other NCCCs is now ubiquitous in government – as highlighted by the Covid-19 inquiry – and evidence submitted to the inquiry revealed strong concerns over how this can allow “significant lobbying efforts to take place outside the transparency requirements”.

In line with face-to-face

Acting chair of the PACAC, David Jones, said: “Increasingly, lobbying activity is undertaken on instant messaging channels such as WhatsApp and this is an area which we think needs greater transparency, to bring it in line with reporting of face-to-face meetings held with ministers, in order to increase public confidence in the democratic process.” 

The report also points to work on an integrated platform to provide details of transparency releases for the whole of government, saying it is welcome but noting that it is currently unclear when it will be implemented.

Jones commented: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to introduce a single, integrated platform for transparency disclosures and look forward to seeing this introduced as soon as possible, along with a move to more frequent publication of transparency releases.”

Register For Alerts

Keep informed - Get the latest news about the use of technology, digital & data for the public good in your inbox from UKAuthority.