I spoke yesterday in the Second Reading debate on the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. The Bill is a ‘Christmas tree’ Bill (with several discrete measures hanging from it) and, despite having constitutional implications, has been rushed, with no White Paper or pre-legislative scrutiny. It appeared fairly friendless and it was notable how few peers on the coalition benches spoke in the debate.
I focused on Part 1 of the Bill dealing with lobbyists. My argument was that it would not deal with the mischief it sought to adress. Rather than simply detail the failings of the Bill, I came up with an alternative to the Government’s proposal, one that shifted the emphasis from the lobbyist to the department being lobbied. Whereas the Bill will only bring a few professional lobbyists within its terms, my proposal has the advantage of being both comprehensive and transparent. You can read the speech here. I was gratified that my proposal was endorsed by a former head of the diplomatic service, Lord Jay of Ewelme, and by some other peers who spoke to me outside the chamber.
The minister, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, argued (or rather simply stated) that my proposal was not incompatible with the Government’s measure. In practice, if my proposal were to be accepted, there would be no need for the Government’s scheme, which introduces a new layer of regulation with no clear public benefit.
Whether I get any further with my idea remains to be seen. We are stuck with having to address the specific provisions of the Bill. I may be tabling lots of amendments.