Responding to the Standards of Conduct Committee’s report on lobbying, the PRCA has welcomed the recognition of industry-led transparency and the commitments to Assembly-side disclosure, but warned against relying heavily on Westminster and Holyrood’s lobbying registers for future direction.
The Inquiry into Lobbying report makes a number of key recommendations and outlines interim steps to be undertaken in the next two years. These include: a pilot scheme for disclosing Assembly Members’ meetings with external interest groups; a commitment to best practice for Assembly security passes; a commitment to transparency around events sponsored by Assembly Members on the Assembly Estate; and the suggestion that the Assembly Commission carry out research into effective ways to increase transparency.
The report also recommends that the relevant sections of Westminster’s Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 be considered once the Wales Act 2017 is enacted and that Holyrood’s 2020 review of their own legislation should be “closely monitored”. The former uses an inadequate definition of lobbying – and provides relatively few details – whereas the latter only applies to lobbying through oral communications. Both use definitions of lobbying far narrower that the industry’s own.
The PRCA responded to the Committee’s consultation on lobbying in January 2017. This response outlined a proper, working definition of lobbying and the status quo of industry regulation for practitioners engaging with the Assembly.
The Committee’s consultation intended to establish whether what the public wants to know regarding lobbying was clear and, if so, whether the arrangements at present provided enough information to meet their expectations.
Mark Glover CMPRCA, Chief Executive, Newington Communications, and former Chairman, Association of Professional Political Consultants, who provided oral evidence to the Committee, said: "I do welcome the good sense they have shown: in waiting to see the impact of Lobbying Register in Scotland, they have given themselves the space to gather evidence and research the issue thoroughly. When it comes to democracy and lobbying, only evidence-based-policy will do."
Francis Ingham MPRCA, Director General, PRCA, said: “We welcome the moves towards Assembly-side disclosure. Not only do they demonstrate that lobbying regulation – either statutory or industry-led – is one part of a ‘jigsaw’ of transparency, they represent a real recognition that lobbying is an essential component of an engaged and open democracy. What does concern us – and will concern all of those interested in democracy and good governance in Wales – are the uncertain plans for the future. Looking to Westminster and Holyrood is not, strictly, an option for the Assembly and we cannot have a situation where the flaws of other systems are simply replicated in Wales. We will continue to fly the flag for a better system altogether.”