2 What is the problem?|
THE PERCEPTION OF UNDUE INFLUENCE
13. The right of citizens to lobby Government
and Parliament, or to engage others to lobby on their behalf,
is a fundamental part of a vibrant democracy. However, there is
a perception in some quarters that some people have undue access
to, and influence over, the policy-making process.
14. The 2009 Public Administration Select Committee
report stated that "some of the concerns that exist around
improper influence are closely linked to the power of informal
networks of friendships and relationships".
David Cameron outlined what he believed to be the problem of lobbying
in February 2010:
I believe that secret corporate lobbying, like the
expenses scandal, goes to the heart of why people are so fed up
with politics. It arouses people's worst fears and suspicions
about how our political system works, with money buying power,
power fishing for money, and a cosy club at the top making decisions
in their own interest".
As Tamasin Cave, campaigner for Spinwatch and the
Alliance for Lobbying Transparency told us: "We do not have
public scrutiny of who is meeting whom and about what. So we have
no way of knowing whether vested interests are having undue influence
15. Since 2010 there have been a number of media
reports surrounding allegations of undue influence. These include
- In March 2010, several then Members of Parliament
were recorded expressing a willingness to use their contacts to
lobby Government and Parliament, and were subsequently suspended
from Parliament for varying periods on the recommendation of the
Standards and Privileges Committee.
- In October 2011, the Defence Secretary Liam Fox
resigned when it was alleged that he had breached the Ministerial
Code. An investigation conducted by the then Cabinet Secretary
Sir Gus O'Donnell concluded that Liam Fox had breached the Ministerial
- In December 2011 Bell Pottinger, a lobbying firm,
were filmed boasting that they had direct access to the Prime
Minister and other senior Ministers.
- In March 2012, Peter Cruddas, the co-treasurer
of the Conservative Party was filmed apparently offering access
to the Prime Minister in return for donations. He later resigned.
- In April 2012 it was revealed that Frederic Michel,
an in-house lobbyist for News Corporation, had been in regular
communication with officials at the Department for Culture, Media
and Sport, including sending texts to the Secretary of State Jeremy
Hunt, during the consideration of News International's bid for
BSkyB. Adam Smith, special adviser to the Secretary of State,
Newspaper reports alleging close contact between
politicians and lobbyists do nothing to reduce the suspicion felt
by many ordinary people that large corporations or wealthy individuals
have disproportionate influence over political decision making.
Greater transparency regarding contacts between Ministers and
lobbyists could help reduce this problem.
16. Opinions from witnesses differed about whether
the public concern about lobbying was justified. Francis Ingham,
Chief Executive of the Public Relations Consultants Association
claimed that: "there is unwarranted public concern that there
are relationships between the lobbying community and parliamentarians
or former parliamentarians or former ministers that is inappropriate".
However, Mark Adams, a lobbyist and author of the blog standup4lobbying,
stated: "we have to accept our share of the blame for the
fact that when lobbyists behave badlyand if there is a
lobbyist behaving badly, I am afraid on the whole it means there
is a politician behaving badly on the other sidewe are
to blame for the public perception".
In its consultation paper the Government stresses that the aim
of a statutory register of lobbyists is to "increase the
information available about lobbyists without unduly restricting
There is a public perception
in some quarters that there are inappropriate relationships between
Ministers and lobbyists and there is a need for action to address
10 Public Administration Committee, First Report of
Session 2008-09, Lobbying: Access and Influence in Whitehall,
HC 36, para 41 Back
Rebuilding trust in politics, 8 February 2010, Error! Bookmark not defined.
Q 57 Back
Standards and Privileges Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2009-10,
Sir John Butterfill, Mr Stephen Byers, Ms Patricia Hewitt,
Mr Geoff Hoon, Mr Richard Caborn and Mr Adam Ingram, HC654 Back
Q 193 Back
Q 86 Back
HM Government, Introducing a Statutory Register of Lobbyists,
January 2012, p7 Back