Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill — Report (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 13th January 2014.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lords Spokesperson (Attorney General's Office), The Advocate-General for Scotland, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Lords Spokesperson (Scotland Office), Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 5:30 pm, 13th January 2014

My Lords, in moving the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire, I will also speak to Amendments 15, 16 and 22. As the Government have made clear throughout the debates on this part of the Bill, the statutory register of consultant lobbyists is designed to address a specific problem—that it is not always clear whose interests are represented by consultant lobbyists. Our objective is to ensure increased transparency without disrupting in any way the fluency of the dialogue between government decision-makers and those who will be affected by policy and legislative decisions.

It is not, nor has it been, the Government’s intention to attempt to regulate comprehensively all those who communicate with government, and the register will not, therefore, be associated with a statutory code of conduct. Instead, the Government are committed to ensuring that the statutory register complements the existing self-regulatory regime by which the industry promotes the ethical behaviour that is essential to the integrity and reputation of the lobbying industry.

We have been very grateful to those Members of your Lordships’ House for their thoughtful suggestions as to how this might best be achieved. After careful consideration of the debates both in this House and in the other place, and discussion with the industry and transparency groups, we have concluded that the most effective option is to provide for a statutory link between the statutory register and the industry-hosted voluntary codes of conduct. As such, Amendments 12, 15 and 16 will require consultant lobbyists to state in their register entries whether or not they subscribe to a publicly available code of conduct in relation to their lobbying activity and, if so, where a copy of the code can be accessed. Such a provision will enhance both the transparency and the scrutiny of registered lobbyists, and the Government hope that the measure will therefore be welcomed.

Additionally, the Government have tabled an amendment to clarify that the registrar can both revise and replace the guidance that he or she has published. I appreciate that this group also includes amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, and I will perhaps respond to these after she has moved them.