Influencer epidemic: The planned register of lobbyists is too narrow

The theory of a statutory register of lobbyists has much to recommend it, but a list of Britain’s largest lobbying companies tells us nothing that we don't already know

Share

New rules now inching their way towards the statute books will do nothing to “shine the light of transparency” – in the Prime Minister’s words – on the murky world of political influence. Although the theory of a statutory register of lobbyists has much to recommend it, the details as proposed are of little practical value.

Only either those companies whose main business is lobbying or those arranging meetings with ministers and officials will be required to declare themselves. Meanwhile, in-house teams and firms with other strings to their bows will not.

There are two flaws here. One is that a list of Britain’s largest lobbying companies tells us nothing that we do not already know. The other is that the focus on meetings with ministers confuses cloak-and-dagger fantasy with the real world. Modern lobbying is less about clandestine dinners than about the more prosaic (and effective) business of commissioning economic analyses, getting together with campaign groups, and leading the public debate. The current plan has been described by one influential MP as “a dog’s breakfast”. How right he is. It should be scrapped and redrawn forthwith.

First, the Government must set out a definition of lobbying that is broad enough to be meaningful. Second, the industry’s existing, voluntary code – which requires signatories to list their clients – should be used as the basis of an upgraded statutory register that covers all who are engaged in political consultancy of any kind. Finally, transparency must extend to corporations’ in-house lobbyists, too: all meetings with ministers and senior civil servants should be logged.

In opposition, David Cameron famously warned that lobbying would be “the next big scandal”. For all the intervening legislative theatricals, the observation is as true now as it was then. And as long as there is no public record of who is talking to whom, on whose behalf, it will continue to be so.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
“I just wanted some chicken wings,” Tan Shen told the assembled media. “But once I got in there ... I decided I needed time to think.”  

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015