Friday, 12 April 2013

Unlock Democracy: Lords-A-Lobbying


Yesterday the Guardian reported that despite government assurances to reform the lobbying industry, 100 lobbyists still have parliamentary passes given to them by members of the House of Lords [1]. On top of that, members of the House of Lords remain free to work in public affairs despite the enormous potential conflicts of interest.

This is a national scandal, yet it is something that we only hear excuses about from senior politicians, never action. The House of Lords itself has always argued that it doesn’t need democratic reform to clean up its act. Let’s put that to the test; will you write to the leaders of the main parties in the House of Lords and demand they take a lead in cracking down on lobbyists within their own ranks?

http://action.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/lords-lobbying

Although we are still waiting for the government to introduce a lobbying register, the House of Commons has done quite a lot over the past two decades to clean up its act over sleaze. The House of Lords has fallen badly behind. A few years ago several peers were caught offering to help change legislation in exchange for cash [2]. Since then we’ve seen almost no action and those peers have been free to continue as both peers and lobbyists.

The fact is, access to the parliamentary facilities is of enormous value to a lobbyist. Designed to resemble a 19th century gentleman’s club, it’s the perfect place to meet politicians - ministers and backbenchers alike. Of course there are rules against voting on legislation which you have a vested interest - but there’s nothing to prevent lobbyists from working to influence a decision in which they have such an interest. And if they’re a member of the House of Lords they can even claim £300 a day tax free to do it!

This is an obviously appalling state of affairs and can’t be allowed to continue. The coalition had a plan - democratic reform - but that now lies in tatters. They have another opportunity to sort this out by regulating the lobbying industry. It’s time to put pressure on them to ensure that they do.

We’re asking people to write to the leaders of the main parties in the House of Lords to demand they take action. You can join in the campaign by clicking here:

http://action.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/lords-lobbying

Many thanks!

Peter Facey

Director, Unlock Democracy

Notes:

[1] More than 100 lobbying professionals still hold parliamentary passes (Guardian, 11 April 2013): http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/apr/10/lobbying-professionals-parliamentary-passes
[2] 2009 cash for influence scandal (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_cash_for_influence_scandal