Is the government delivering on its commitment to lobbying transparency? | Tim Hughes, Involve
Tim is coordinator of the UK Open Government Network.
Today (17 July 2013) the Coalition Government published the “Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill“, which sets out its plans for a “lobbying register”. On the face-of-it, this should be a positive step on a critical aspect of open government: making it transparent who influences government’s decisions. But the devil – as ever – is in the detail.
As set out in the civil society annex of the UK’s draft Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, the UK OGP civil society network has called on the Government to:
[…] establish a statutory lobbying register that applies across the board, including in-house corporate lobbying. By delivering the UK’s existing commitment to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists in a comprehensive and effective manner, applying to all influential players, the UK would lead good practice on this vital aspect of policy formulation and help to ensure that undue influence over public officials does not undermine public trust in government.
A key aspect of this is that the Lobbying Register should apply to all lobbyists, including in-house corporate lobbyists. The Government’s Bill, on the contrary, will only apply to lobbying consultants – who are estimated to make up fewer than a fifth of all lobbyists.
The following links provide more analysis from civil society organisations working on this issue:
- Spinwatch: http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/issues/lobbying/item/5517-spinwatch-statement-on-lobbying-register
- Unlock Democracy: http://unlockdemocracy.org.uk/media/news/entry/unlock-democracy-criticises-government-failure-to-honour-lobbying-commitmen
- Transparency International UK: http://www.transparency.org.uk/news-room/blog/12-blog/689-the-lobbying-bill-a-missed-opportunity
More information can also be found on the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency site: http://www.lobbyingtransparency.org
A briefing paper was produced for the UK OGP civil society network on the Lobbying Register by Anne Lindsay from CAFOD in October 2012: https://www.opengovernment.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/13.Lobbyists-Register.pdf