A major new campaign is launched today (Thursday, 24 January 08) to open up the opaque world of lobbying. The latest abuse by lobbyists concerns an obesity charity financed by the weight loss industry, which misled MPs over its funding - uncovered just days before the Government is due to launch its obesity strategy.
The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (www.lobbyingtransparency.org), a coalition of civil society groups, is calling on the Government to introduce rules that require the disclosure of lobbying activities, allowing greater public scrutiny and improving the accountability of Parliament.
Members of ALT have been called to give evidence today to the Public Administration Select Committee Inquiry into lobbying. Prof. David Miller and Dr William Dinan of The University of Strathclyde and Spinwatch argue that industry self-regulation is incapable of providing adequate transparency in lobbying and is unlikely to command widespread public confidence. They will draw the Committee's attention to recent examples of lobbying malpractice, including the charity TOAST (The Obesity Awareness & Solutions Trust), a lobbying group funded by the weight loss industry, which misled MP's over its sources of funding.
Director of Unlock Democracy Peter Facey said: "For many years now we have campaigned on the importance of transparency in party funding, but this is only one way in which lobbyists seek to influence to public sphere. Transparency in lobbying is another important tool for restoring trust in government decision-making, and in making ministers, elected representatives and officials more accountable to the public."
Professor Miller said: "The public has a right to know on whose behalf lobbyists are working, how much money is involved, and the areas of policy they are seeking to influence. Lobbying is much more pervasive than is generally recognised. Lobbying companies are adept at finding ingenious ways to disguise the role of their clients which is why disclosure is so important."
The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency is calling for:
- A public mandatory register of lobbyists, with financial disclosure.
- Enforceable ethics rules for all lobbyists.
- Enhanced rules on ethics for politicians and public officials on the so-called 'revolving-door' syndrome and to halt privileged access to decision makers.
Members of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency are: Spinwatch; Unlock Democracy (formerly Charter 88); Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom; National Union of Journalists; Greenpeace; Friends of the Earth; Action Aid; War on Want; Pesticides Action Network; Platform; Corporate Watch; SPEAK Network; Campaign Against Arms Trade.
Members of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency will give evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee inquiry into lobbying on Thursday 24 January 08, at 10.00 am in the Thatcher Room, Portcullis House.
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