OF LOBBYING, WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE NOW
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
04 Jun 13. The UK Public Affairs Council (PAC) definition of lobbying states that ‘in a professional capacity lobbying means attempting to influence, or advising those who wish to influence, the UK Government, Parliament, the devolved legislatures or administrations, regional or local government or other public bodies on any matter within their competence.’
Of Lobbyists themselves the Public Affair Council states ‘they are those who, in a professional capacity, work to influence, or advise those who wish to influence, the institutions of government in the UK, in respect to:
* the formulation, modification or adoption of any legislative measure (including the development of proposals for legislation);
* the formulation, modification or adoption of a rule, regulation or any other programme, policy or position;
* the administration or execution of a governmental or other public programme or policy within the UK (including the negotiation, award or administration of a public contract, grant, loan, permit or licence).
We all have an absolute right to lobby our parliamentarians be they in the House of Commons or House of Lords or elsewhere. It is what makes the whole system work and it brings Parliament and people close together. If lobbying was not allowed then members of Parliament would be ill-informed. It would be a bit like giving someone a gun without any ammunition to fire it. It is of course ‘our parliament’ and this very fact is enshrined as a given within our ‘unwritten’ constitution.
The Palace of Westminster is at the heart of our democracy and while it may be the home of government and a place of work for MP’s and working members of the House of Lords meaning certain restrictions have to be placed on all of us never forget that each one of us has a right to be there.
The ability to lobby those in Government is hugely important and nothing should ever be done that makes this process more difficult provided always that is should be done within the laws of the land and that it never be allowed to metamorphose to a form of corruption. The rules are clear (see BBC Q&A: Political Lobbying And Rules For MP’s and Peers) but the problem arises where a lobbyist acting in a professional capacity breach this well defined set of standards and rules by offering financial compensation to those they are seeking to influence and those asked, accept.
It is now clear that although the occurrence of financial influence in the lobbying process is rare the latest failings brought to light by the BBC and the Daily Telegraph highlight that, following hard on the heels of the expenses scandal, this as yet another aspect of the parliamentary system breaking down. Trust is essential and there have now been too many examples of failure to believe that this be re-established without a carrot and stick approach of change. The question is how?
I believe that any ‘member’ caught accepting or having accepted any form of direct financial remuneration for the specific use of ‘influencing’ Parliament should be immediately barred from the Palace of Westminster for life. This should include any member of House of Commons and the House of Lords caught and successfully prosecuted along with those that have themselves been found guilty of offering compensation. This would mean an MP found guilty having to immediately ‘resign’ his or her seat and a Member of the House of Lords found guilty being immediately stripped of his or her title.
Secondly: I believe that Members of Parliament and Members of the House of Lords who act as advisors to specific companies or who sit on boards must, if they seek or propose to raise any matter related to their specific and already formally declared interest within the Palace of Westminster, be made to repeat the declaration of interest formally both written and orally before they shoul