MPs call for compulsory lobbying register

An influential committee of MPs is proposing radical regulation of the UK lobbying industry - including the creation of a statutory register of lobbyists.

Parliament: call for register
Parliament: call for register

The House of Commons public administration select committee will today publish its long-awaited report in to the industry.

The report calls for a statutory register of lobbying activity that both consultancies and in-house teams would be forced to sign up to.

Under the new system, all consultancies would be required to provide the names of their clients.

The register would also list details of all meetings - including lunches - between lobbyists and MPs/officials.

The radical proposal will delight campaigners but will send shockwaves through the public affairs industry.

PRWeek revealed the committee's inquiry was getting under way last year (PRWeek, 21 June 2007).

During last year's inquiry, the MPs heard from a number of prominent lobbyists who all argued against further regulation of the industry.

But in today's report, the MPs conclude that most of the arguments against regulation are ‘over-stated'.

In addition to a register, the committee proposes that a single body, funded by lobbyists but staffed by external figures, is needed to oversee and regulate the ethics of the activities of lobbyists.

The report says lobbyists should be given six months to set this up. Failing this, the government should take action by passing ‘a short bill'.

The report also criticises the CIPR, PRCA and the Association of Professional Political Consultants. It says: ‘The central problem is that the three umbrella groups have an in-built conflict of interest, in that they attempt to act both as trade associations for the lobbyists themselves and as the regulators of their members' behaviour.'

Committee chairman Tony Wright MP said: ‘Lobbying enhances democracy, but it can also subvert it... Our proposals may seem radical, but they are designed to be proportionate and effective.

‘They are in line with developments abroad, but rooted in our own political tradition. Transparency is key here. There is a public interest in knowing who is lobbying whom about what. Our proposals show that this can be achieved in a reasonably straightforward way.' 

 

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