Today's publication of a major report by the National Assembly for Wales Standards of Conduct Committee takes a "common sense and pragmatic" view of the merits of introducing a lobbying register according to the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC).
Responding to the publication of the new report, 'Lobbying', published today (11th January) Paul Bristow, chairman of the APPC, said: "Assembly Members on this committee should be commended for taking a common sense and pragmatic view of the merits of introducing a lobbying register in Wales. They rightly acknowledge that introducing a register can be fraught with challenges and that assessing the effectiveness of both the Westminster and Holyrood registers before taking any definitive position is extremely prudent. We know, for example, that the Westminster register - whose membership is limited to third-party lobbyists - covers only 1% of UK lobbyists and is therefore very limited in driving up transparency across the whole lobbying industry."
"The new report recommends that the lobbying industry should demonstrate how a voluntary register would operate and how it could provide the necessary information about influence over elected Members. With this in mind we would encourage both third party lobbyists and in-house operators to sign up to the APPC's existing register and robust code of conduct, designed specifically to enhance transparency concerning the interactions between lobbyists and law makers and to drive up standards and ensure best-practice in the lobbying industry.
"The committee's suggestion to undertake a trial of publishing Assembly Members’ diaries, specifically relating to lobbying, is to be welcomed. Transparency from Assembly Members themselves would serve to reassure the public about the nature and frequency of interactions between lobbyists and Assembly Members. However, any system should be light touch and seek to minimise the burden on elected politicians. It would be counter-productive if a system of diary declaration put off Assembly Members from engaging with outside interests, especially because - as the report concludes - “lobbying needs to be part of an ongoing dialogue in an engaged and open democracy" - a recognition of the important role that lobbying plays in public life and which is welcomed by the APPC."