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.
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
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”.
- Helen Darbishire, Executive Director, Access Info
- Maurice Frankel, Director, Campaign for Freedom of Information
- Fredrik Galtung, CEO and Trustee, Integrity Action
- Simon Burall, Director, Involve
- Tom Steinberg, Founder and Director, mySociety
- Chris Taggart, Co-Founder and CEO, OpenCorporates
- Gavin Starks, CEO, Open Data Institute
- Dr Rufus Pollock, Founder and CEO, Open Knowledge Foundation
- Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group
- Tim Davies, Director, Practical Participation
- Francis Irving, CEO, ScraperWiki
- Ellen Miller, Executive Director, Sunlight Foundation
- John Christensen, Director, Tax Justice Network
- Robert Barrington, Executive Director, Transparency International UK
- Alexandra Runswick, Director, Unlock Democracy
Dr. Jonathan Gray is Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). More about his work can be found at jonathangray.org and he tweets at @jwyg.