Disappointingly, it would appear that the Coalition's efforts to combat the pernicious influence of lobbyists on our democracy have come up rather short of what Liberal Democrats might hope for. The fact that the senior civil servant responsible for the consultation was somewhat confused as far as objectivity was concerned might very well not have helped.
So, what is needed? My colleagues at Unlock Democracy have the answer. They call for a public register of lobbying, which would include;
- the organisation lobbying
- the name(s) of individual lobbyist(s)
- information on any public office held by the lobbyist in the past five years
- the public body being lobbied
- the name of the public official with whom contact has been made (government minister, senior civil servant and above)
- a summary of what is being lobbied on
- a good faith estimate of spending on lobbying
This register would include corporate lobbyists, trade unions, companies or law firms, as well as larger charities.
Unpaid lobbying by a member of the public, or lobbying of an MP by a constituent, would be exempt, as well as small businesses and charities.
And, to make sure that the register is credible, an independent body is proposed, similar in design to the Electoral Commission. The information would then be publicly available and thereby open to scrutiny by voters and any other interested groups.
That doesn't sound too difficult. Of course, if you're beholden to the lobbyists, you might not be so keen...