4 September 2013

A fortnight ago Holly Walker’s Lobbying Disclosure Bill didn’t make it back from Select Committee. MPs voted down the Bill although unanimously agreeing to non statutory controls which would require

  • guidelines for MPs on handling lobbying communications, which could include mechanisms for disclosure and reporting by MPs and lobbyists
  • regulatory impact statements and explanatory notes of bills to include the names of any non-departmental organisations consulted during the development of legislation and policy
  • release of policy papers to make the policymaking process more transparent ( something now required anyhow in the Disclosure Statement which Departments promoting legislation are required to post on the Parliamentary Counsel Office website ).

The Attorney –General had previously been very disparaging of the Bill.

But this week British counterparts seemed accepting of measures thought unhelpful in New Zealand. The Opposition tried to vote the Bill down, seeing the Government proposal as more harmful than if lobbying remained unregulated. The Government had a majority of 71 on the Second Reading. Opposition MPs claim the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill has Government support because it has few of the characteristics prescribed in the OECD Principles of integrity and transparency in lobbying. Its attractiveness for some may be that inherent weakness.

In general terms the UK Bill

  • establishes a Register of consultant lobbyists with a Registrar to enforce the registration requirements
  • regulates election campaign spending by those not standing for election or registered as political parties
  • strengthens requirements that trade unions keep up to date membership lists.

Opponents see the proposal as the sort of legislation promoted when Governments want to make a political statement but not to force change.