Open Up Lobbying: how it would work
What is it?
A public register of lobbying will give us the information we need to know about who is being paid to influence decision-makers in government, enabling us to form a judgment about whether their activities have influenced the outcome.
Registers are a very commons tool for encouraging transparency - they ensure that certain basic information has to be published on a regular basis. In the UK, we already have registers that record donations to political parties, as well as the business interests of MPs and Peers. However, at the moment organisations or companies seeking to influence government decisions are not required by law to publish any information about their lobbying activities.
How would it work?
The register would require lobbyists - whether companies or trade unions, lobbying agencies or law firms, as well as larger charities (above a minimum financial threshold) - to regularly provide information such as:
- The organisation lobbying
- The name(s) of individual lobbyist(s)
- Information on any public office held by the lobbyist in the past five years
- The public body being lobbied
- The name of public official with whom contact has been made (government minister, senior civil servant and above)
- A summary of what is being lobbied on
- A good faith estimate of spending on lobbying
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.
The register would be managed by an independent body - in the same way that the Electoral Commission already publishes donations to political parties. The information would then be made publicly available and could be scrutinised by voters and any other interested groups.
What they say
Rt Hon David Cameron MP:
“It is the next big scandal waiting to happen. It’s an issue that crosses party lines and has tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money.”
Public Administration Select Committee:
“Lobbying the government should, in a democracy, involve explicit agreement about the terms on which this lobbying is conducted. The result of doing nothing would be to increase public mistrust of Government, and to solidify the impression that government listens to favoured groups-big business and party donors in particular-with far more attention than it gives to others.”
“We will regulate lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists and ensuring greater transparency.”
Alliance for Lobbying Transparency:
“We need a robust, compulsory register to reveal: who is lobbying whom, what they are lobbying about, and how much is being spent trying to influence our politicians. And it needs to be overseen by a body independent of the industry.”
Sir Philip Mawer (former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards):
“We certainly need to do more about the Government’s relations with lobbyists… We cannot remain where we are.”
Dr William Dinan:
“The public have a right to know who is trying to influence policy.”
Professor David Miller:
“It is a democratic right to be able to access decision-makers... however, we need a level playing field.”