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Lobbying is Not the Problem: Abusing the System Is

Written by Guest on Tuesday, 24 February 2015

To mark the launch of the ‘Lifting the Lid on Lobbying’ report Transparency International UK and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption hosted a discussion in Parliament on the report’s conclusions and its implications for parliamentary standards and the rules on lobbying in the UK.


“There is a strategic crisis in this country, and this report is a very important advance in all of us seeking to do something about it.” – Lord Phillips of Sudbury

To mark the launch of the ‘Lifting the Lid on Lobbying’ report Transparency International UK and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption hosted a discussion in Parliament on the report’s conclusions and its implications for parliamentary standards and the rules on lobbying in the UK.

Lobbying is not a problem in itself. Dr Elizabeth David-Barrett, the report’s lead author, opened, stating that lobbying is a “critical part of the policymaking process”. Nonetheless, the apparent perception of public office as a tradable asset raises questions as to whether the behaviour displayed by politicians inspires public confidence. It also raises questions of preferential access – is the legislation sufficiently protective against groups or individuals who seek to buy influence? Because finding evidence of corruption can be difficult, one of the objectives of the report is to look for vulnerabilities to corruption. We found 39 loopholes in the current system – a significant number of vulnerabilities when there has been an Act supposedly designed to close them.  

Lord Phillips of Sudbury who chaired the panel, stated in his introduction that recent scandals highlighted “deliberate, planned, executed corruption” and contributed to the erosion of public trust in political institutions. He attributed these lobbying scandals to a breakdown of the “organic constraints” on corruption that used to operate within communities, including the City, where “reputation was all”. So where are the deterrents?

The panel criticised the current legislation. Ian Anderson, Chair of The Association of Professional Political Consultants, and Mark Durkan MP agreed that the 2014 Lobbying Act is largely inadequate: the legislation applies to 1% of lobbyists, and does not cover any of the in-house teams, any of the law firms, any of the other organisations who are seeking to lobby. Labour MP Lisa Nandy, also Shadow Minister for Civil Society, stated that a Labour government would repeal the Act and replace it with a “register that covers a much wider range of activity”.

Another crucial element that stemmed from the discussion was the propensity to downplay the extent of corruption in the UK. Mark Durkan MP admitted that he had previously been offered money to nominate somebody to the House of Lords, and Robert Barrington pointed out that the most recent Global Corruption Barometer revealed an upward trend in some areas of corruption in the UK, with more than 5% of respondents stating they had paid a bribe in the past 12 months. Complacency towards the problem can be dangerous, as can the belief that corruption takes place abroad rather than at home.

 

To read  and download the full report click here

To read the data survey used for our report click here

To access a summary of key findings from the report click here

To access our press release click here

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Read 2343 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 12:18

Guest

The TI-UK blog features thought and opinion from guest writers as well as TI staff. Any opinions expressed by external contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of Transparency International UK.

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