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A poll of lobbyists found that only four per cent believe that the lobbying bill will increase transparency. This widely-criticised measure may block voluntary and community organisations and trade unions from flagging up public concerns. But clearly it will not achieve what is supposed to be its main purpose – making lobbying more transparent.
A poll of agency and in-house lobbyists which are members of the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) revealed how little credibility the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14 has. The UK government refused to include in-house lobbyists (who form 80 per cent of the industry) on the statutory register. But 91 per cent of those polled think this category should be included.
“As we have said from the start of this rushed debacle: the Bill, in its current form, will not increase the transparency of the industry,” declared PRCA director general Francis Ingham. “When the people who work in the industry overwhelmingly state that this Bill will not increase transparency, the Government should listen. The Government should try talking to the industry, and then they would realise just how wrong the current situation is.”
Even if the government were to accept the amendments made in the House of Lords, the bill remains profoundly undemocratic and a violation of human rights.
Maina Kiai, UN special rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, pointed out that “Although sold as a way to level the electoral playing field, the bill actually does little more than shrink the space for citizens – particularly those engaged in civil society groups – to express their collective will. In doing so, it threatens to tarnish the United Kingdom's democracy."
“In-house lobbyists – who enjoy the most influence in the UK government by far – are exempt. That leaves unions and civil society as the taking the brunt of the bill's impact,” he explained.
Even within the lobbying industry, it appears that few believe that the bill is fit for purpose. However it may prove effective in undermining basic freedoms that people in the UK have come to take for granted.
* More on the Lobbying Bill from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/lobbyingbill
© Savitri Hensman is a regular Christian commentator on politics, economics, society, welfare, sexuality, theology and religion. She is an Ekklesia associate and works in the equality and care sector.Tweet