Public Affairs: Soap Box - Paul Beckford, director, parliamentary affairs, Cogitamus

I'm proud to be a lobbyist. Yet there are periodically angry demands for my profession to be regulated. These demands are rarely triggered by the activities of third party professional political advisers who have signed up to an ethical code of conduct.

It's reassuring to see that many of the responses to the Cabinet Office consultation on a statutory register of lobbyists understand this point, arguing that a register of lobbyists should include all those who undertake the activity for a living. So also says the House of Commons political and constitutional reform committee, which has been very critical of the narrow focus of the consultation.

Until we see the revised proposals from the Cabinet Office we cannot be certain if the Government is serious about regulating lobbying or whether regulating third party lobbyists is simply a coalition agreement tick box exercise.

The PCRC highlights improvements the Government can make now to help broaden information about who is lobbying. Recent scandals have not involved professional lobbyists - certainly not any who are signed up to an ethical code of conduct. So what is the perceived public concern that the Government is seeking to address?

If ministers actually want to shine a light on those who avoid transparency then one idea is for organisations signing up to a code of conduct to be highlighted positively in the statutory register. This may help to create a shift towards transparency by all professionals who seek to influence policy through lobbying.

Effective lobbying plays an important role in a democracy, providing parliamentarians with information they may not otherwise receive and ensuring they fully understand the impacts of policy. In taking pride when calling myself a lobbyist, I believe it is vital there exists a level playing field for all those wishing to engage with policymakers.

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