Skip to main content

Lobbyists

Volume 542: debated on Tuesday 20 March 2012

We set out our initial proposals on 20 January. We are undertaking a wide-ranging consultation exercise. I have appeared at a number of meetings and will do so again. We will listen to everything that people have said and in due course we will lay out our proposals for legislation.

I have had a number of meetings with the voluntary sector over the past six months. Can the Minister reassure the House that the changes to the lobbying system that we may introduce will not bar small charities from making contact with their Members of Parliament?

The hon. Gentleman raises a good point. Nothing that we intend to do is intended to stop people legitimately lobbying their Members of Parliament. Indeed, we have set out that lobbying is a good thing to make sure we are aware of the impact of our legislation. The important thing is that it is carried out transparently, and that is what we are aiming to achieve.

The hon. Gentleman may ask me, as I am answering the question. We are carrying out a consultation exercise, listening to the industry, to the public and to organisations campaigning for transparency. When we have done that, we will weigh up everything that has been said. We will then publish draft legislation for full pre-legislative scrutiny.

The most recently published information describes all but two of the Chancellor’s meetings with external organisations as being for the purpose of general discussion. The other two are described as social. Does the Minister agree that for proper disclosure of lobbying activity, any register will need to go further than such broad descriptions?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. I shall count that as part of the consultation exercise. It is a point that has been made by others about the disclosures that Ministers make. We will weigh that up when formulating our proposals.

I wholeheartedly support the idea of a statutory register of lobbyists, but surely it must include the full-time people who do it on behalf of their companies in-house. If we do not know whether the head of lobbying for BP, Shell or whoever else is coming in to see a Minister, we have not really brought about transparency, have we?

The point that the hon. Gentleman makes about those who lobby for the companies they work for, as opposed to third parties, has been made by others and we will weigh that up. If a person from an individual company comes to see a Minister and the Minister discloses that they have had that meeting, as they do, it is clear on whose behalf they are lobbying. The situation that we are trying to deal with is one where we do not know on whose behalf someone is lobbying. That is the reason for our initial proposals.