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critique of uk proposals to regulate lobbying July 23, 2013

Posted by Bradley in : transparency , trackback

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency describes the new UK proposals in the “Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14″ as plans to set up a “fake register.” As the Alliance points out, the proposals to regulate lobbying are to apply to “consultant lobbying” which is defined to occur where in the course of a business and in return for payment, the person makes communications “personally to a Minister of the Crown or permanent secretary” on behalf of another person or persons relating to legislation, government policy, contracting, grants, licensing and authorizations and governmental functions. The complexity of this definition and what it covers and doesn’t cover is quite dramatic. I don’t know what making communications “personally” means (written and oral communications are covered). You have to look at Schedule 1 to the Bill to see that consultant lobbying does not include people and firms whose “business .. is mainly a non-lobbying business” (firms of solicitors, for example). Nor does it include people and firms which act “generally as a representative of persons of a particular class or description” where “the income of the person .. derives wholly or mainly from persons of that class or description”, and “the making of communications within section 2(3) on behalf of those persons is no more than an incidental part of that general activity” (trade associations, environmental groups etc.). But the transparency word in the Bill title isn’t really apt here.

From the Government’s perspective it looks as though the really important lobbying-related issue is to do with Trades Unions: there’s a consultation paper about how to create more transparency with respect to trades unions which states:

As membership organisations, it is important that trade union decisions reflect the will of all their members. Knowing who their members are and being able to engage them is intrinsic to a union’s democratic accountability.

What about other membership organizations that take positions on policy? Why not make trade associations disclose who all their members are and how the positions they take on policy issues reflect the interests of their members?

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