Oliver Wright: Ten pages of 'consultation' that mean only one thing – it's business as usual

Share
Related Topics

All told, the Government's consultation document on reforming Britain's lobbying industry runs to 30 pages. When you take out the blank pages, the index and the formulaic appendices you're left with fewer than 10 pages.

But the Mark Harper, the Political Reform minister, did not even need that space to outline his vision for the future of lobbying.

It could be summed up in three words: business as usual. It's been said before but it's worth restating – there is nothing wrong with lobbying in itself.

It's far better for ministers to take decisions with all the arguments in front of them and lobbyists are an important source of those arguments. The problem comes when there is a lack of transparency.

By any account the Government's proposals in this consultation paper do not address this. Take what's been dubbed "the Tesco problem". A lobbyist for Tesco meets the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. But we don't know if they're there to talk about a campaign for healthy eating or to put pressure on the Government not to bring in a minimum price for alcohol.

Equally, a lobbying firm with multiple clients will not have to declare which of its clients it is representing when it meets ministers.

Nor will ministers have to declare so-called "private" meetings with lobbyists that take place outside departmental office hours. This has happened before and under the Government's proposals will happen again. All we left with after yesterday is a statutory register of meaningless information.

But it is not too late.

This is just a consultation. The Government may have signalled its intent to do as little as possible but new revelations may yet shame it into doing something more meaningful.

As David Cameron said in opposition – lobbying is the next big political scandal waiting to happen. After yesterday that looks more like a statement of aspiration.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Project Manager / IT Project Manager

£50 - £60 per annum: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Project Manager / IT Project Ma...

Tradewind Recruitment: Permanent Class Teachers Required for 2015/2016 - Suffolk

£21000 - £50000 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teachers seeking perma...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 5 Teacher Required For 2015/16 - Chelmsford

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: A popular, 'Good' school loc...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teachers Required in Norwich and Great Yarmouth

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am working on behalf of a ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dolphin Square where Lord Sewel allegedly took drugs with prostitutes  

Lord Sewel's real crime was joining the House of Lords in the first place

Boris Corovic
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food