A message for the new lobbying minister

Can a new minister provide a fresh pair of eyes, see some sense, engage in some meaningful debate and put in place a register that increases transparency and builds public trust in politics and politicians?

Emily Wallace: take the time to get the lobbying bill right
Emily Wallace: take the time to get the lobbying bill right

While attention on the lobbying bill has focused on debate and concessions on non-party campaigning in part two of the bill, the Government's woefully inadequate proposals for a statutory register of lobbyists remain almost intact.

The lobbying industry has been calling for a statutory register of lobbyists for some years. We think that greater transparency will help improve the reputation of our industry, allow us to tackle the myths and perceptions that have grown up around professional lobbying, put all lobbyists on an equal footing and give our profession the recognition and credibility it deserves as part of a healthy democracy.

But it seems the statutory register will be a very exclusive club.

It's going to be pretty hard to get on to the Government's proposed lobbying register.

First, you must work for a company whose main business is lobbying – in a single swipe this rules out the vast majority of lobbyists.

Then, you must personally contact either a minister or a permanent secretary on behalf of someone else.

This fails to recognise that the vast majority of the UK lobbying consultancy sector is not based on advocacy but on advice. Yet those advising and not advocating will not be able to register on the Government's lobbying register, even if they want to.

This all means it will be an expensive club too, with a just handful of consultancies and one-man bands bearing the costs of the entire operation, which the Government believes will be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds annually.

Why is the Government intent on setting up a register of lobbyists that is specifically designed to exclude an estimated 99% of lobbyists? It makes no sense to create a register of lobbyists that covers fewer people than are already registered voluntarily.

If you were really serious about increasing transparency of who is lobbying whom, why wouldn't you want to encourage as many lobbyists as possible to register?

The lobbying industry wants a statutory register that is open and inclusive and that delivers more transparency than currently exists.

So our message to the new lobbying minister is take some time to get this right, delay the bill if you have to, work with us to put in place a register that has the trust and faith of our industry, and transparency for campaigners and the public alike.   

Emily Wallace is director of Connect Communications and PRCA PA Group chairman

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