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Health and banking reform. Rupert Murdoch. Liam Fox. Lobbying scandals have rarely been off the front pages over the last year. On the eve of the last general election, David Cameron himself predicted that “secret corporate lobbying, like the expenses scandal, goes to the heart of why people are so fed up with politics… It is the next big scandal waiting to happen.” So why did he do nothing about it for over a year?
Unlock Democracy and Take Back Parliament want to see the government take action on this. Lobbying government isn't a problem in itself; it’s a part of the democratic process. The problem is when it’s done in secret and the public have no way of knowing who has been putting pressure on the government to do what.
We want to see a system in place to ensure that all lobbyists publicly register their meetings and contact with civil servants and politicians. It would ensure that scandals such as the one embroiling Liam Fox could be exposed much more quickly.
The UK is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to lobbying transparency; even the US has made great strides on the issue in recent years.
The government promised to establish a statutory register of lobbying activity in its coalition agreement last year. Since then we've had numerous lobbying controversies yet still no sign of the register.
Even more bizarrely, the Cabinet Office have been blocking freedom of information requests inquiring about the meetings they've had with lobbying firms about lobbying transparency – you couldn't make it up!
Amid growing pressure following Liam Fox’s resignation, there are signs that the government may now finally unveil their plans for a register; it is therefore crucial that we keep the pressure up now. If they think no-one is really interested, there’s a risk the issue will get kicked into the long grass – as it has so many times in the past.
So please take one minute today to email your MP asking them to urge Political and Constitutional Reform Minister Mark Harper to publish a White Paper on a lobbying register as a matter of urgency.