Action on lobbying and party funding must be fair and open

By staff writers
June 6, 2013

Any new Westminster legislation to reform party funding must include a cap on donations and resist temptation to turn it into a partisan stunt, says the political reform group Unlock Democracy.

Commenting on the government’s announced plans to publish a lobbying bill before the end of July 2013, the NGO's director, Peter Facey, said: “We of course welcome the government’s pledge to introduce new legislation before the summer recess, although we have yet to see any details about how they propose to make new lobbying register itself operate."

He continued: “However have grave concerns about the government’s decision to bolt on a number of tangential party funding reforms onto the lobbying bill, seemingly in an attempt to play party politics with the issue.

"We have a significant chance to make progress on lobbying right now; if David Cameron and Nick Clegg are serious about doing so, we suggest they focus on legislating for a robust and comprehensive lobbying register and cleaning up parliament.

“We would welcome legislation to sort out the mess of party funding, which despite repeated scandals continues to undermine our political system.

"But any such bill must include a cap on donations in light of the ‘cash for access’ lobbying scandal last year. We must tackle what the former treasurer of the Conservative Party Peter Cruddas called a ‘premier league’ of donors having privileged access to party leaders in exchange for their cash.

“All three parties have expressed support for a cap on donations. Any attempt to legislate for some aspects of party funding without tackling this fundamental issue should correctly be dismissed as political game playing and not be taken as sincere in our opinion.”

Concern has also been expressed by some that the coalition government is using rhetoric around donations and lobbying to target trade unions, without due regard to the difference between advocacy for commercial interests and workers' rights, health, environmental safety and other union issues.

[Ekk/3]

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