Lobbyists attacked by MPs for slow progress towards transparency

MPs have accused some lobbyists of taking a 'cynical approach' towards reform of the UK public affairs industry.

Lobbying: under attack from MPs

The Commons public administration select committee has published a new report that suggests certain lobbyists are acting as a roadblock to reform.

The committee's latest report on lobbying comes almost a year after it issued wide-ranging proposals to inject greater transparency into the industry.

The new report concludes that there has recently been some ‘tentative movement in the direction of better regulation of lobbying'. But it adds that both the Government and the lobbying industry should be doing much more to make lobbying transparent.

The report states: ‘Progress is slow and we remain sceptical that effective regulation will be achieved without legislation. Some lobbyists may be delaying regulation in the hope that the concentration on their activities will die down after a general election. This would be a cynical attitude which we believe would misjudge the public mood.'

The committee previously called for called for a statutory register of lobbying activity - something that has been brushed aside by the Government. Instead, ministers have urged the public affairs industry to take steps towards voluntary regulation. Industry representatives have responded by drawing up plans for self-regulation via a ‘public affairs council'.

The committee says of the industry's progress on this front: 'We are dissapointed that eleven months work has only got so far as another consultation on a broad set of principals'.

Also in the new report, the MPs express concern that the proposed public affairs council 'will end up enforcing different standards for different lobbyists'.

The MPs call for more clarity from the Government on how it will review the industry's progress on self-regulation.

Labour MP and committee chairman Tony Wright said: ‘We are encouraged that our original report on lobbying has led to some movement in the direction of lobbying transparency. However, there is much more that should be done if public concern about this issue is to be addressed. I think we will ultimately end up with a statutory register of lobbying activity and I urge the Government to look again at this.

‘We also need clarity from the Government about how it will assess the lobbying industry's moves towards self-regulation. If the industry wants to avoid external regulation it will need to put in place robust measures for effective self-regulation ahead of the general election.'




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