COMMONS

Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

22 January 2014

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee today publishes its second report on the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

This was in time for consideration of Lords amendments by the House of Commons on 22 January.

Graham Allen MP, Chair of the Committee, said

"The Government has rushed the Transparency of Lobbying Bill through Parliament without proper time for scrutiny.  Yet again, the Committee has had to produce a report in a matter of hours, thanks to the timetable imposed by the Government.

The Bill has been improved since it was first published, thanks to amendments made in the Commons and the Lords.  However, we remain seriously concerned that about the very narrow focus of the Government’s lobbying register. Without the changes that we recommended in our original report, to expand the register to cover all those who lobbying professionally, and all those who offer professional advice on lobbying, the Bill will do little to increase transparency.

In our original report, we called on the Government to raise the thresholds at which third parties would have to register with the Electoral Commission. This, and other changes that we called for, have now been made.  But we would still like to see further changes, including restoring the spending limits in England, Scotland, and Wales to their current levels.

We continue to regard this Bill as an example of how not to make legislation.  It should serve as a reminder to future Governments that consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny are vital elements of the process of producing good legislation—not mere formalities that can be dispensed at the convenience of the Government."

The report

  • Notes that significant changes have been made to the Bill during its passage through Parliament and concludes that, although far from perfect, it has undoubtedly been improved.
  • Concludes that, although much of the attention in recent months has been on Part 2 of the Bill on third-party campaigning, there continue to be serious concerns about the very narrow scope of Part 1, on lobbying.
  • States that, without the changes the Committee recommended in its first report on the Bill, to broaden the lobbying register, Part 1 of the Bill will do little to increase transparency about who is lobbying whom and for what purpose.
  • Agrees with many of the amendments that were made in the House of Lords, but call for amendments to these amendments in some instances:
     - Supports the amendment made in the House of Lords to include special advisers within the list of people with whom contact counts as lobbying, but would like to see the Bill further amended to include Senior Civil Servants within this list as well.
     - Calls for the maximum expenditure limits for third-party campaigning to be restored to their current levels in England, Scotland and Wales (the Committee is content with the proposed increase in the limit for Northern Ireland.)
     - Supports the changes made in the Lords to make the reporting and accounting requirements on third parties less onerous, but calls for additional amendments to further reduce bureaucracy.

The Report will be available, as a PDF document, from 9.00 hours on Wednesday 22 January on this website on The Government’s lobbying bill: follow up inquiry page

Image: Parliamentary copyright

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