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Register of Lobbyists

Volume 521: debated on Tuesday 18 January 2011

My hon. Friend should know that the Government plan to carry out a wide-ranging consultation later this year and then to bring forward legislation in the second Session of this Parliament.

Does the Minister agree that for the statutory register to be effective and fit for purpose, it must be robustly transparent?

I do, and that is a very important point. Lobbying is a perfectly reputable industry for making sure that the voices of charities and businesses are heard, but it should be transparent so that people know who is talking to those in Parliament. That is what the Government intend to do—mainly to clean up the dreadful behaviour that we saw last year, which has resulted in some former Members having their passes removed.

The purpose of lobbying is to give further advantages to the already advantaged. Is the Minister not concerned that already lobbying has taken place between his Department and BSkyB which might have the most damaging consequences for the people of this country? Should not these reforms be brought in quickly by the Tory-Lib Dem junta?

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman’s characterisation that all lobbying is to benefit the advantaged. Members are lobbied all the time by charitable organisations, charities and, as I found in my previous role in opposition, those who campaign on behalf of disabled people, for example. It is important, however, that such lobbying is transparent and that people know who is talking to Members of Parliament and members of the Government. That is exactly what our statutory register will achieve.

I applaud the Minister’s efforts, but will he consider proposals to shut the revolving door between big Departments and big business contractors, which leaves taxpayers ripped off and democracy diminished?

Processes are already in place to vet what Ministers and former Ministers do after they leave both ministerial office and this House. My hon. Friend makes a good point, and those matters are being looked into and kept under review. I am sure that he will continue pressing that point in his usual vigorous way.