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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

In defence of lobbying reform

This is my 6,000th post on this blog, so it is entirely fitting that I use it to repeat myself by supporting the case for lobbying reform at the Houses of Parliament.

I saw a tweet yesterday suggesting that as no lobbying company was involved in the resignation of Patrick Mercer then clearly there was no case for regulation. It is a fair point but one that misses the intent behind reform. Lobbying regulation should be there to protect politicians as well as the lobbyists.

Of course there will always be elected members who go too far in pursuit of material reward, but being able to distinguish between those who are genuine lobbyists and those who are not would surely be very useful to everybody.

I note too that the Speaker has suspended a number of passes as a result of the recent revelations.  As yet there is no indication why these passes were issued or who too, even if they were correctly issued or not, however John Bercow's action does raise further questions.

Are passes issued to lobbyists? If so what level of access are they afforded and what justification is given for them holding these passes? What level of interaction takes place between politicians and lobbyists and how transparent is that particularly around legislation and cross-party groups?

The Welsh Assembly is about to debate new rules for cross party groups and the excellent umbrella body for lobbyists in Cardiff Bay operates its own voluntary code. That does not appear to be happening in Westminster. That is why reform is necessary.

If we can improve transparency and accountability then it will have been worthwhile. My only concern now is that the UK Government do not mess it up by mixing up trade union reform with what is otherwise long-overdue regulation.
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