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An Open Letter on the UK’s Proposed Lobbying Bill

The following is an open letter to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister about the UK’s proposed Lobbying Bill, initiated by the Open Knowledge Foundation and signed by organisations working for greater government transparency and openness in the UK and around the world. A version of the letter was printed in today’s edition of The Independent newspaper.

For more about our position on this topic, you can read our recent blog post on the importance of lobbyist registers. For press enquiries please contact press@okfn.org.

The Lobbying Bill will be a missed opportunity for government openness unless crucial changes are made


Rt Hon David Cameron MP
Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP
Houses of Parliament
London
SW1A 0AA

Cc: Andrew Lansley CBE MP (Leader of the House of Commons),
Francis Maude MP (Minister for the Cabinet Office),
Chloe Smith MP (Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform),
Graham Allen MP (Chair of Political and Constitutional Reform Committee).

6th September 2013

Dear Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister,

We, the undersigned, strongly urge government to pause and redraft the proposed Lobbying Bill so that it will provide citizens with a genuine opportunity to scrutinise the activities of lobbyists in the UK.

The current version of the lobbyist register would only cover a small fraction of active lobbyists, leaving the public in the dark about the rest of the UK’s £2 billion lobbying industry. It will also not reveal any meaningful information on their activities.

We think a decent lobbyist register – which says who is lobbying whom, what they are lobbying for and how much they are spending – should be an essential part of the UK government’s openness agenda, and a key measure to ensure that lobbying is transparent and effectively regulated.

Crucially it should not just be restricted to consultant lobbyists, but should also include in-house lobbyists, big consultancies who offer a range of services, and other entities which offer lobbying services such as think tanks.

Furthermore we think it is essential the UK’s lobbyist register is published as machine-readable open data so that its contents can be analysed, connected with other information sources, and republished.

The UK has been a pioneer in opening up its public data and has a major opportunity to be a world leader in government openness at the Open Government Partnership Summit in the UK this autumn, following on from its success in putting open data at the top of the agenda at the G8 with the Open Data Charter.

However, if the Lobbying Bill goes ahead as it is without further changes, 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”.

Signed,

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