UK among seven out of 19 EU nations to regulate lobbying, says anti-corruption watchdog

Only seven out of 19 European countries have measures in place to regulate lobbying, according to a comprehensive report by Transparency International (TI).

APPC chairman Iain Anderson: Welcomed the Transparency International report findings
APPC chairman Iain Anderson: Welcomed the Transparency International report findings
These countries are the UK, Austria, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia.

In the study, TI scored each country – as well as the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU – on transparency, integrity and equality of access. 

Overall marks indicated the strength of a country’s or organisation’s lobbying regulations and efforts to promote ethical lobbying.

The UK scored 44 per cent overall, exceeding the 31 per cent average score.

TI applauded the level of self-regulation among UK professional bodies, citing the CIPR and APPC codes of conduct as well as a vigorous complaint mechanism. 

Areas for improvement included the oversight of the lobbying register and greater transparency in the public sector, such as how politicians declare their interests.

Slovenia ranked first with an overall score of 55 per cent, thanks to a "fairly robust" lobbying register and an anti-corruption agency that regularly sends out reports of public sector and lobbying contacts. 

It is also the only country with mandatory ‘cooling-off’ periods before former MPs assume lobbying positions that potentially create conflicts of interest.

Hungary and Cyprus received the lowest marks, the former due to ill-designed regulations coupled with "a culture of impunity" surrounding political influencing and the latter for its non-existent lobbying laws.

Iain Anderson, APPC chair, told PRWeek the findings were favourable. 

He said: "The UK does relatively well in the TI report launched today. There is a recognition of the APPC code being positive and good practice, and better than statutory regimes."

Anderson added that the APPC welcomed TI’s recommendation to bolster existing lobbying registers and ensure that they covered direct and indirect lobbying.

He said: "The APPC has long argued that a register covering only third-party lobbyists is insufficient and we very much hope a future government reviews the UK's statutory register."

Lobbying is a significant issue ahead of the 2015 elections. 

Labour’s manifesto reaffirms its plans to repeal the Lobbying Act and set up a more stringent statutory register in its place, as well as banning MPs from holding paid directorships and consultancies. 

Similarly, the Liberal Democrats have vowed to "strengthen and expand the lobbying register and prohibit MPs from accepting paid lobbying work".

The UK’s lobbying register was launched on 25 March, a year after the Lobbying Act was introduced, and had 53 listed agencies at the time of going to press.

The TI report covered the following countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and the UK.

Commenting on the findings, TI report author Suzanne Mulcahy said: "The overall results of the research give cause for concern and suggest that attempts to date to promote open and ethical lobbying standards by both governments and lobbyists have been piecemeal and ineffective. Much of the influence remains hidden and informal; there are serious conflicts of interest at play; and certain groups enjoy privileged access to decision-makers."

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