A major new campaign is launched today to open up the opaque world of lobbying.
ALT, the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, a coalition of civil society groups is calling on the Government to introduce rules that require the disclosure of lobbying activities, allowing greater public scrutiny and improving the accountability of Parliament.
Members of ALT will give evidence today to the Public Administration Select Committee Inquiry into lobbying.
Prof. David Miller and Dr William Dinan of The University of Strathclyde and Spinwatch will argue that industry self-regulation is incapable of providing adequate transparency in lobbying and is unlikely to command widespread public confidence.
They will draw the Committee’s attention to recent examples of lobbying malpractice, including the charity TOAST (The Obesity Awareness & Solutions Trust), a lobbying group funded by the weight loss industry, which misled MP’s over its sources of funding
The charity claimed to be ‘completely independent’ and to ‘derive its income from individual donations and membership fees’. However, an investigation revealed that almost all of its funding came from a diet company called LighterLife. No fewer than nine of the twenty one parliamentary patrons it recruited have now gone on record stating that they were not told of the links between TOAST and Lighterlife.
Professor Miller said: “The public has a right to know on whose behalf lobbyists are working, how much money is involved, and the areas of policy they are seeking to influence. Lobbying is much more pervasive than is generally recognised. Specialist lobbying companies are adept at finding ingenious ways to disguise the role of their clients which is why genuine full disclosure is so important.”
Peter Facey, director of campaigning organisation Unlock Democracy, will stress in his evidence the importance of transparency in restoring trust in government decision-making, and in making ministers, elected representatives and officials more accountable to the public. The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency’s key demands are:
- A mandatory public register of lobbyists, with full financial disclosure
- Enforceable ethics rules for all lobbyists
- Enhanced rules on ethics for politicians and public officials on the so-called ‘revolving-door’ syndrome between lobbyists and public bodies; to halt privileged access to decision makers
Members of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency are: Spinwatch; Unlock Democracy (formerly Charter 88); Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom; National Union of Journalists; Greenpeace; Friends of the Earth; Action Aid; War on Want; World Development Movement; Pesticides Action Network; Platform; Corporate Watch; SPEAK Network; Campaign Against Arms Trade.