The House of Lords today debated proposals for a tough new bill to increase scrutiny over the lobbying industry and voted to take it closer to becoming law, in the face of opposition by the government. The proposed new law would replace the government’s widely discredited lobbying register with one that would be far more comprehensive, cover in-house lobbyists as well as agency lobbyists, and ensure that details of meetings with civil servants and special advisors are recorded rather than simply ministers.
The Lobbying (Transparency) Bill enjoyed support from across the Lords. Introduced by a Labour peer, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, there were also speeches in support by Conservative and cross-bench peers.
Notably, none of the objections raised in the debate were over the principle of the need for greater lobbying transparency; merely on the practicalities. This is something which legislatures around the world have managed to overcome, from the EU to the US, Canada, Australia and more recently the Republic of Ireland.
The House of Lords will now begin the process of line by line scrutiny of the bill at committee stage, before debating it again in a full session. But it stands very little chance of becoming law unless Theresa May can be persuaded to put her predecessor's poor track record behind her and have her government support it becoming law. Without her support, it is likely to simply be defeated in the House of Commons when it is debated there.
So there is still a lot of work to do. However, with a far more robust lobbying register now legislated for in Scotland, there is increased pressure for Westminster to come into line. And with the lobbying industry gearing up for what the Times calls a “Brexit bonanza” [paywall], the need for greater scrutiny over the lobbying industry has never been more crucial.
Here at Unlock Democracy we are gearing up our activity to persuade peers and MPs to support Lord Brooke’s bill and to put pressure on the prime minister. You can help yourself by talking to your MP about it and asking them to support it, or even simply by making us a donation to help us step up our campaign. The more people who are talking about this issue over the next few months, the harder it will be for Theresa May to ignore us.