MP calls for legislation to regulate lobbyists

May 15, 2009 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

A Labour MP has pressed the Leader of the House on the issue of lobbyists.

During Business Questions yesterday Kelvin Hopkins reminded Harriet Harman that the Select Committee on Public Administration published its report on lobbying in the first week of January.

“The report, which called for a statutory register of lobbyists, was followed by an early-day motion from my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Gordon Prentice), who is a fellow member of that Committee, calling for urgent legislation,” he said.

“The motion has been signed by 162 hon. Members.

“It is customary for the Government to respond to such reports within two months. The response was deferred until after Easter, but it is now well after that time.

“Will my right hon. and learned Friend ask her colleagues in the Cabinet Office to respond and to come with forward with at least a reply and, I hope, legislation, as soon as possible? May I also suggest that such legislation would help to raise public esteem for Parliament once again?

Ms Harman suggested Mr Hopkins raise the matter with ministers at Cabinet Office Questions next week.

“He will know that questions that touched on the subject of lobbying were the subject of various parts of the draft constitutional renewal Bill, which was scrutinised by a Committee of both Houses,” she said.

The report published this year was the first parliamentary inquiry on the subject since 1991.

“Lobbying is about influence, and influence is impossible without access,” it said.

“Lobbying is publicly associated with the activities of consultancies on behalf of their various clients.

“But it is also carried out by other kinds of professional representative, such as lawyers, as well as in-house by a vast array of organisations with an interest in public policy and decisions. These range from corporations, to trade associations, to charities, to grassroots campaigners.

“Lobbying should be—and often is—a force for good.

“But there is a genuine issue of concern, widely shared and reflected in measures of public trust, that there is an inside track, largely drawn from the corporate world, who wield privileged access and disproportionate influence.

“Because lobbying generally takes place in private, it is difficult to find out how justified concerns in this area are.

“This is why there have been demands for greater transparency, and why lobbying has been regulated in a number of jurisdictions, generally through registers of lobbyists and lobbying activity.”

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