Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:40 pm on 3rd September 2013.

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee 2:40 pm, 3rd September 2013

That is certainly one of the issues on which we have taken evidence, including this morning, and we will come forward with proposals that will reassure the hon. Lady. Whether those proposals find favour across the House now the tramlines are set, rather than having a special Committee that could have attempted to reach consensus, is another matter. Fundamentally, however, there is another big-picture problem because this issue is not just about the House and how it does its business, but about the public.

The public wanted a Bill on lobbying not because of some finesse about 1% of lobbyists or a couple of categories —Ministers and permanent secretaries—of people who are lobbied. The public wanted a Bill because they felt that we did not have the credibility, or the political classes the ability, to produce something that would tackle the scandals that appear in our newspapers and on our television. Nothing in this Bill addresses that concern: “You lot in Parliament, once again you’ve ducked it. You have avoided the big issues.” We have heard cases involving all parties—this is not a partisan point—but not one of those issues is addressed by the Bill. People watching our debates at home will say, “There they go again. There is an esoteric little thing about a few details, and the only thing we know is that they are attacking our charities.” I do not say whether that is right or wrong, but that is the impression the public are being given by our inability to create an effective lobbying Bill.

Briefly, if someone wanted to do O-level politics on how to produce or not to produce a Bill, I am sorry, but this Bill would be an F—a fail, big time. Unfortunately, they need to have people on their side—political parties where there could be consensus, the big society, charities, the voluntary sector. Read the evidence from the Electoral Commission when I publish it in 48 hours’ time. It is damning evidence from people who should really all be on the same side to ensure this provision will happen. We should listen to people. Let us have some consultation; let Parliament do its job, smoke out some of the issues and attempt to resolve them. I have a fantastic all-party Committee and we could do that job for Parliament, yet those things have been resolutely held at arm’s length. Perversely, we are trying to make a Bill that divides rather than keeps people together.