News 21st Sep 2015

Time to Make Lobbying Influence Accountable

Steve Goodrich

Head of Research and Investigations

Steve is Transparency International UK’s Head of Research and Investigations. He is responsible for managing TI-UK’s research unit and is our specialist on lobbying accountability, party funding and open governance. Before joining TI-UK in May 2015, Steve worked as a Senior Policy Adviser at the Electoral Commission. He has over five years’ experience working on political finance regulation, legislation and data.

Press Office
[email protected]
+ 44 (0)20 3096 7695 
Out of hours:
Weekends; Weekdays (17.30-21.30):
+44 (0)79 6456 0340

Related Publication

Following the launch of TI-UK's new report Accountable Influence: Bringing Lobbying Out of the Shadows we ask: Why all the secrecy?

What should we know?

You may not know this, but the UK Government is required by its own rules to publish Ministerial diaries on a regular basis. These are supposed to tell us who they have been meeting with when and why. The point of this exercise is to increase transparency about who is trying to influence UK Government policy and decisions. For example, this could be energy companies talking about unconventional fossil fuel extraction under National Parks, resources-resources-business bodies lobbying for airport expansion in the South East of England, or private corruption-resources-corruption-resources-healthcare providers making their pitch for greater provision of public corruption-resources-corruption-resources-health services.

The UK Government used to be proud of these disclosures; they even cited them as a reason why there was no need for a comprehensive statutory register of lobbyists. However the last time these diaries were published was in March this year, and then they only covered meetings that happened over a year before; they could have been missing some important meetings; and included so little detail about the purpose of the meeting that they were almost meaningless.

Why don’t we know this?

Now you would have hoped that these sloppy practices were a relic of the past and things would improve after May’s election. However instead of upping their game, the new government has so far published no updates to this lobbying information. Nada. Nowt.

Do other parts of the UK publish Ministerial diaries?

When it comes to openness, the Scottish Government doesn’t fare much better. We know that on the 13th May Nicola Sturgeon had a meeting with Pat Rafferty from the Unite union and on the 19th May she met Iain McMillan CBI Scotland. However those responsible for publishing these things didn’t bother to include any information about what was discussed. They also decided to publish the diaries in a PDF document, which is bad practice and, overall, makes lobbying data very difficult to analyse.

Unfortunately, these aren’t isolated incidents of idleness: lobbying secrecy seems to remain the norm across the UK. None of the UK’s four executives have introduced a comprehensive register of lobbyists, and where they’ve voluntarily made Ministerial diaries available they have not published them as open data.

What should they be doing then?

We’ve just published a new paper outlining how we think lobbyists and our politicians should be made more accountable. This includes new analysis on who might be trying to influence the UK Government how bad the UK’s lobbying rules are and 38 recommendations for change.

What can you do?

Transparency International UK has launched an online campaign about the importance of transparency in the fight against corruption and the impact it has on our everyday lives - Starting with lobbying #TransparencyMatters will make the link between activities at the top and the issues that affect us all.

This campaign is calling on members of the public campaigners and journalists to send us stories about why #TransparencyMatters to them. Please see the call for submissions below and send your stories to [email protected].

#TransparencyMatters to you — and we want to know why:

Is there a cause you believe in which you think has been affected by lobbying abuse?
Do you think private interests have affected a decision you care about made by those in power at the expense of the environment society or economy?
Does limited access to information affect your work as a campaigner or journalist?

From saving the bees to airport expansion, fracking to corruption-resources-corruption-resources-healthcare, local planning to airport expansion, we want to know why #TransparencyMatters in your life, profession or grassroots campaigning. We’re looking for stories from anyone who seeks to hold the UK Government to account and has a story to tell which shows why transparency matters to them. This includes members of the public, charities, campaigners and journalists. Send us your stories (no longer than 100 words), along with your photo, name and if applicable, profession/job title to [email protected] or tweet @TransparencyUK in the usual 140 character limit!  

To read and download the research click here

To access our press release click here