Public Affairs: Soap Box - Keith Johnston, CIPR board member

The efforts of the UK Public Affairs Council have highlighted the debate on transparency in lobbying.

Now the UKPAC register is public, it has come in for some unjustified criticism from anti-lobbying groups, and more justifiable attacks from people who had higher expectations of it and want to see the industry make more information available.

Whether UKPAC has met the expectations of the Public Administration Select Committee, or if it will ever meet the expectations of those who believe lobbying is a front for buying influence, is academic. The Government is committed to a statutory register of lobbyists. It will consult the industry and consider whether UKPAC provides a successful model. But in the end, lobbyists will have to disclose who their clients are.

The industry now needs to work with the Government to advise on the implications full disclosure might bring. The Government should also be aware of the need to protect the identity of individuals who are connected with controversial clients.

What is now voluntary through UKPAC will become mandatory. The industry needs to meet Government's expectations. Transparency in lobbying is the best advert for the ethical nature of public affairs activity, and could create a better understanding of what we do.

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