Soap Box: Mark Adams, director, standup4lobbying

The Government has managed to produce a consultation paper on a statutory register of lobbyists that is being condemned on all sides.

Mark Adams: Government 'nonsense' proposals
Mark Adams: Government 'nonsense' proposals

The Government's move might suggest that this means it has got the balance right, but in what other walk of life is something considered valuable if it is attacked by all?

The proposals are only aimed at lobbying consultancies, the vast majority of which already register on a voluntary basis, as well as signing up to a code of conduct – so the existing self-regulatory regime already goes further than the Government’s proposals.

Yet lobbying agencies will be expected to pay the Government to do something they pay for already through the APPC or PRCA. All other lobbyists – whether in-house or in law firms, banks or management consultancies – look as if they will get off scot-free. So the ‘level playing field’ that some in the lobbying profession were hoping to see is further away than ever.

I can only assume the consultation has been nobbled by political interests that saw some time ago all the difficulties and dangers of regulation to which the profession has been pointing.  

How can lobbying be regulated in a way that does not constrain the democratic right of all to be heard? And how can we ensure the so-called ‘scandals’ do not happen again? Self-regulation may not be perfect, but at least it is working already, on the basis that lobbyists choose to sign up. How is compulsion preferable?

Public policy should be based on empirical analysis that sets out the problem and argument to justify the solution. The nonsense the Government has produced does neither. We should not hold back in telling the Government exactly what we think of it and why.

Also read: Government plans to exempt in-house lobbyists from register 'could be illegal'

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