Editorial: Bring lobbyists out into the open

With the spectre of sleaze still fresh in their minds, another old complaint has come back to haunt lobbyists: that some of their number are securing passes to Parliament by paying for bogus ’researchers’ for MPs.

With the spectre of sleaze still fresh in their minds, another old

complaint has come back to haunt lobbyists: that some of their number

are securing passes to Parliament by paying for bogus ’researchers’ for

MPs.



This practice is wholly unsatisfactory, not least because it perpetuates

the myth of underhand lobbyists operating in collusion with unprincipled

MPs. This impression is completely false. Most MPs and lobbyists are,

and always have been, entirely honourable. Furthermore, lobbying is a

fundamental part of democracy. It is every voter’s right to lobby MPs,

and whether that is done personally or through a pressure group or a

hired adviser makes no difference.



The real issue is that of transparency and regulation. In that respect,

the media has performed a valuable function in forcing MPs to clarify

and enforce the standards of behaviour expected of them. It has also

spurred lobbyists into greater self regulation.



But the inherent weakness in the system of self regulation is plain -

there is no requirement to register with professional bodies like the

APPC or IPR before setting up shop as a lobbyist.



The solution is surely for passes to be given to lobbyists in their own

right - provided they are registered and sign up to a code of

practice.



This would mean that professional bodies would have the teeth to

regulate the industry effectively.



Westminster must look to the European parliament for its lead. There,

registered lobbyists can get passes if they sign up to a code of conduct

and are transparent about the purpose and frequency of their visits.



It’s time to legitimise the presence of UK lobbyists too. No more hiding

in dark corners.



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