During the 1990s, scandals involving corporate lobbyists made headlines in the UK. Since then, the industry has introduced some self-regulation.
We believe these industry-run voluntary systems of disclosure and codes of conduct are not up to the job and can never deliver adequate transparency: information about the fees, resources and tactics used by lobbyists are not made public; many in the industry refuse to sign-up to the voluntary systems or are not covered by them (for example, in-house lobbyists, charities and front groups); they are run by self-interested actors, the lobbying industry trade associations; and they have failed to put a stop to improper lobbying.
Recent issues concerning the lack of transparency and shortcomings in the regulation of the conduct of the Houses of Parliament are also a concern. For example, the handing out of parliamentary passes to lobbyists, the role of All Party Parliamentary Groups, the ‘revolving door’, and the outside interests of Parliamentarians. To restore trust in politics, we need mandatory rules requiring disclosure of all lobbyists’ activities, and regulation to ensure better standards among politicians and public officials: How to ensure Lobbying Transparency
How to increase trust in decision-making
- A mandatory register of lobbyists. This must include disclosure of those lobbying, and resources spent on lobbying activities. This would allow meaningful information on the contacts between lobbyists and decision-makers to be put in the public domain, and subject this form of policy-making and influence to much needed scrutiny.
- Recording of all meetings and correspondence between lobbyists and elected members, officials and ministers. The Ministerial Code was changed in 2007 and no longer contains the specific requirement to record meetings between Ministers and outside interests. We want to see it re-introduced and for the information to be made public.
- Enforceable ethics rules for all lobbyists. Despite the industry’s attempts to self-regulate through voluntary codes of conduct, some lobbyists still use tactics that many people would find unacceptable in the UK’s democratic system. Rules on the conduct of lobbyists should include, for instance, a ban on the employment of officials or their relatives for lobbying purposes and curbs on benefits in kind and gifts.
- An end to privileged access: We want to see an end to practices where particular interests are granted privileged access to ministers and officials. For example, organisations that allow privileged access for corporations to Parliament should not be granted regular Parliamentary Passes.
- An end to ‘revolving doors’ We want to see the introduction of an extended cooling off period before ministers, elected members and senior officials across the public sector can work as lobbyists.
- Enhanced ethical rules on members’ interests to tackle the so called ‘revolving-door’ syndrome and to halt privileged access to decision makers.