[OKFN-EN] The world needs better lobbyist registers - but the UK's proposed lobbying bill won't help

Jonathan Gray jonathan.gray at okfn.org
Thu Sep 5 09:08:18 UTC 2013

Hi all,

I thought some of you might be interested in the following post on the Open
Knowledge Foundation blog on the importance of lobbyist registers and how
the UK's currently proposed lobbying bill won't result in a decent one
without some important changes.

I've been thinking that it might be useful to have a list of lobby
registers and related legislation from different countries around the world
- highlighting their strengths and weaknesses from a transparency
perspective. Does anyone know of anything like this? If not, might anyone
be interested in contributing to such a resource?

As I allude to in the post, we'd like to see every country in the world
with a decent register of lobbyists, and perhaps this kind of comparative
roundup could be valuable for people working on policy or advocacy in this

All the best,


September 4, 2013 in Featured <http://blog.okfn.org/category/featured/>, Open
Data <http://blog.okfn.org/category/open-data/>, Open Government
, Policy <http://blog.okfn.org/category/policy/>

Lobbyist registers are supposed to enable citizens to find out who is
lobbying whom for what, and how much they are spending in the process.

They are supposed to help to safeguard against big money having an unfair
influence in politics – ultimately to ensure that political decisions are
based on argument, evidence and democratic deliberation, and not bought
with cash from the highest bidder.

*We think lobbyist registers are an essential part of government
transparency, and that every country in the world ought to have one.*

Furthermore we think it is essential that lobbyist registers are published
as open data <http://okfn.org/opendata> so that their contents can be
easily analysed, queried, and connected with other information sources.

As we’re increasingly seeing corporations and special interest groups
lobbying across borders, we’d like to track how big money is shaping
discussion and decisions about issues that matter – from energy and the
environment to tax and trade – in countries around the world.

We think that this kind of inquiry is essential for democracies to function.

Map showing how much firms spend lobbying the
EU<http://api.lobbyfacts.eu/map> created
at Open Interests Europe
Hackathon<http://okfnlabs.org/events/hackdays/lobbying.html> organised
by OKFN Labs <http://okfnlabs.org/>

While the UK is a world leader in opening up its public data, unfortunately
*the proposedLobbying
its current form will not deliver the lobbyist register that the UK needs*.

Aside from widespread concerns that it will have a “chilling effect on
civil society and its freedom of
the bill contains major loopholes and omissions which means that it will
not deliver real or meaningful transparency around lobbying in the UK.

Firstly, *the bill would only apply to a fraction of the UK’s £2 billion
lobbying industry*. It would only require disclosures from those *whose
main business is lobbying*. Hence it would not cover companies who have
in-house lobbyists, big lobbying consultancies who offer a range of
services, and other entities which offer lobbying services such as think
tanks, law firms or management consultancies. And for those whose main
business is lobbying it only covers those who lobby the highest echelons of
government – not special advisers or mid-level civil servants.

Secondly, *the bill would require lobbyists to disclose very little
information about their activities*. Essentially it asks lobbyists for a
list of their clients and nothing at all about which issues they lobby on,
which departments they target, or how much they are paid.

We at the Open Knowledge Foundation sincerely hope that the proposed bill
will be revised to address these and other limitations.

If the bill goes ahead as it is, then it will be a significant missed
opportunity for government openness in the UK, and a major blow to the
government’s aspiration to be – in the words of the Prime Minister – “the
most open and transparent government in the world”.

*If you’d like to read more you can take a look at SpinWatch’s
While MPs voted for a second reading last
there’s still time to ask them to reconsider the bill. If you’re based in
the UK you can write to your MP either via SpinWatch’s
with your own message atWriteToThem <http://www.writetothem.com/>.*


Jonathan Gray

Director of Policy and Ideas  | *@jwyg <https://twitter.com/jwyg>*

The Open Knowledge Foundation <http://okfn.org/>

Empowering through Open Knowledge

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