Lobbying: Recall and Registers are no silver bullets

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive

Posted on the 3rd June 2013

The lobbying scandal is yet more evidence of the corrupting power of money in our politics. But as ministers fall over themselves to look decisive, it’s time for a reality check.

The Government doesn’t seem to know if it’s dealing with a discrete lobbying problem or a bigger issue of political corruption. And in the rush to prove their decisiveness they risk missing the real issue.

The rules that govern our MPs and Peers are simply not fit for purpose. Is taking cash for questions a faux pas or a criminal offence? We should seize this opportunity to set rigorous standards for our politicians.

We have some of the toughest anti bribery laws in the world. Shouldn’t we use this opportunity to tighten existing laws to ensure rigorous – and enforceable – legal standards clearly apply to all politicians.

And yes, a lobbying register would bring much needed transparency, but it offers no protection against brown envelopes.

The support for the register among larger lobbying firms shows that parliament needs to tread carefully. We don’t want to do big commercial lobbyists a favour by making it impossible for small competitors to break their hold on the industry.

As for recall, we’ve made our position on this abundantly clear.

Recall does seem a good idea until you see it in practice. Today the Deputy Prime Minister says recall needs to be ‘done right’, but there is simply no example of recall in practice that hasn’t handed more power to the already powerful.

The Government has fallen for the myth that recall empowers the public. All the evidence shows it is a partisan tool wielded by powerful interest groups to promote sore losers. Recall is not the great leveller, it would simply give moneyed elites an even greater grip on our politics.

Recall would be a sign of this parliament’s failure to police itself. Our lawmakers shouldn’t be law breakers. The Government needs to forget recall, and ensure MPs are subject to the law of the land, properly enforced.

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