The government has promised to allow us to see who is influencing its decisions by bringing in new rules for lobbyists. But its current plans to open up the influence industry are a sham.
Please note: the government's consultation has now ended. We will update you on its progress, and any further opportunities to make your views known, when details are available.
The immediate opportunity
The government has promised to make lobbying transparent, and has recently published a set of proposals. But its current plans are a sham. Read on.
Like other countries, the UK needs a robust, public register of lobbying to reveal who is lobbying whom, about what and how much is being spent trying to influence our politicians. Read on.
Tell the government that their plans will not expose lobbying. Tell them we need proper transparency rules for lobbyists. Read on.
Download our 4-page briefing on Bringing Transparency to Lobbying and more .
Anyone can lobby government – it’s what we do when we voice our concerns to our MP. But this doesn’t make us all lobbyists.
Lobbyists are people who are paid to influence government decisions. It’s big business in the UK, where the lobbying industry is worth £2billion. Most of the money is spent by large corporations, who court politicians and officials and persuade them to change or delays laws and regulations or award them government business, all to benefit their bottom line and often against the public interest.
New transparency rules would allow us to see the countless ways our lives are shaped by lobbyists. We’d see the size of the private healthcare lobby pushing for the current NHS reforms; who is persuading the government against reform of the banks; or which firms want to get their hands on greenbelt land.
The immediate opportunity
The government has promised to allow us to see who is influencing its decisions by bringing in new rules for lobbyists. It has just published its plans and is asking for your views on the extent to which the lobbying industry should be opened up to scrutiny.
It has just published a consultation on its proposals for a public register of lobbyists. Registers generally require lobbyists to regularly reveal who is lobbying whom and for what, and the money spent on lobbying.
But the government’s proposals for a register of lobbyists are a sham. They want the new rules to cover only a fraction – less than a quarter – of the industry; and don’t want the register to reveal any meaningful information – only the names of those lobbying.
The introduction of a register of lobbyists is a rare opportunity to expose the influence industry, and help change the back-room deal nature of politics.
A robust register of lobbyists would allow people to see who is lobbying our politicians, what they are trying to influence, and how much money they are spending in the process.
The purpose of a lobbying register is to increase government accountability by allowing the public to see lobbyists’ dealings with politicians and public officials.
The government's proposals will not achieve this. Read on to find out why, and what is really required to expose lobbying to public scrutiny.
1. Proper disclosure of lobbyists' activities
|We believe lobbyists should be required to regularly provide full details of their lobbying activities on a public register. Specifically, the lobbying register should make public:
2. The new rules must apply to all paid lobbyists
We believe that all paid lobbyists should be required to register their activities. The government is proposing that only those working on behalf of third parties, i.e. agency lobbyists, would be covered by the new rules.
To capture the whole industry requires a decent definition* of what constitutes lobbying. ALT suggests a lobbyist is anyone paid to: arrange or facilitate contact with officials; communicate with officials to influence legislation, regulation, or government policy, and for government contracts and grants; work in support of the above.
Lobbying by a member of the public, which is unpaid, or lobbying of an MP by a constituent would be exempt. We are also calling for small businesses and smaller charities to be exempt.
*For a more detailed definition, and a fuller list of exemptions, see ALT’s Essential Provisions for a Statutory Register (in Resources below).
3. The register must be publicly funded and run by an independent body
We agree with the government that the register should be run by a body independent of both lobbyists and the government. But we think it must be publicly funded, not financed by lobbyists, as the government proposes.
Penalties for failure to comply should include, as the government suggests, fines and the possibility of criminal prosecution for more serious offences.
Tell the government that their current plans will not expose professional lobbying to much-needed public scrutiny.
They want to know your views on:
The full government consultation paper: Introducing a Statutory Register of Lobbyists can be downloaded hereor from: www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/constitutional-reform
Or sent to:
Statutory Register of Lobbyists,
Area 4/S1, 1 Horse Guards Road,
London, SW1A 2HQ
Deadline for submissions is 13 April 2012