11 April 2012
Influencing the process of government is a continuing concern. Is lobbying part and parcel of how government works? Is it inherent in the democratic process or is it just a characteristic of financial power?
The Guardian today highlights how British MPs are ready recipients of the largesse of interest groups. The twist on this collation is that the benefits have been given to “all-party groups”– more than 300 groupings of MPs and Lords interested in a particular subject, which obviates partisan scrutiny.
Over the last 12 months the MPs’ register of gifts apparently records over £1.8 million of gifts and perhaps more concerning, funding arrangements.
Included is an interesting benefit, perhaps to remedy the perjorative perception of troughing snouts, of free membership of Weight Watchers.
The transparency campaigner responsible for the disclosure of MPs’ expenses in the UK said that “The public has a fear that politicians are unduly influenced by people with money, and they need to work to tackle this perception. Currently, because of the opacity of funding, these groups create the perception of lobbying through the back door. If they want to be seen as a respectable part of parliament, they should disclose more information on their activities and funding. If they aren’t willing to do this, we really have to wonder why – what have they got to hide?”
The move by the Greens in New Zealand to codify the access of lobbyists to decision makers is because we have no controls and minimal disclosure expectations. The OECD Governance Committee will be reporting in 2014 on the extent to which Member states have measures that reflect the Principles of Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying, adopted in 2011.