Lobbying bill will not increase transparency, say experts
Only 4% of top lobbyists believe that the transparency of lobbying bill, voted for by the House of Lords on Tuesday, will actually increase transparency within the industry.
The bill passed successfully through the Lords, but has faced much criticism from campaigners and charities. A leading human rights lawyer, Helen Mountfield, also said the bill threatened free speech.
The proposed law will restrict the amount of money certain groups can spend on campaigning in the run up to a general election. It also requires a statutory register of lobbyists to be established, which ministers maintain will significantly increase the transparency of lobbying.
However, a new poll of top lobbyists that are members of the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), reveals that only 4% believe the bill will actually increase transparency.
The bill will not cover in-house lobbyists, which include those acting on behalf of firms such as British Gas and RenewableUK, and who account for around 80% of the industry’s lobbyists, despite an amendment being proposed to do so.
PRCA director-general Francis Ingham said, “Professional, ethical lobbyists have nothing to fear from transparency. In fact, for the last two decades, our industry has embraced higher levels of disclosure on lobbying activities than the government now proposes.
“We welcome the fact that the government has conceded in several key areas, most notably ensuring that the register will detail where lobbyists do or do not subscribe to existing industry codes of conduct.”
He added, “Nonetheless this is not an act which will stand the test of time. By excluding in-house teams, lawyers and management consultants, the government guarantees that its successor will have to revisit this issue. And the PRCA will help its successor to do just that.”
However, Friends of the Earth campaigner Liz Hutchins argued that the bill was rushed.
“Instead the government has forced through a bad bill in record time that will limit groups like Friends of the Earth from speaking out on behalf of their supporters ahead of elections”, she claimed.
“This is bad day for anyone wanting to protect the environment, save a hospital or oppose tuition fees.”
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