Newsletter - 7 - ALT update UK lobby register, 'Revolving Door' campaign update, new ALTER-EU video

Publication date: 
Wednesday, February 1, 2012

ALTER-EU's 7th newsletter

Executive summary / policy recommendations: 

Our British colleagues from the 'Alliance for Lobbying Transparency' (ALT) report about the progress (or lack thereof) in the UK government's proposals to register lobbyists. Also regarding ALTER-EU's campaign to block the revolving door through which public officials go straight into private lobby jobs there is much to update. Although the revolving door continues to spin, our efforts are having an impact. Finally, ALTER-EU produced another video that is now online. In a bit more than 1 minute, viewers are explained why Brussels' lobby scene needs to be cleaned up urgently. ALT's campaign for a statutory register The UK government published its long-awaited proposals for a statutory register of lobbyists on 20 January. They were swiftly and widely condemned by campaigners, lobbyists and opposition politicians alike for being shameful and meaningless - a whitewash. The plans, which will now be the subject of a three month consultation, are fundamentally flawed in two key respects: they propose that a register should only apply to third party lobbyists – ie agency lobbyists; and that they should only reveal who is lobbying for whom. The government defines the problem with lobbying in the most narrow terms. It’s worth repeating the rationale for this from the Minister in charge of the policy, Mark Harper: “Ministers already have to say who we meet. If we've met with outside organisations, we say we've met with them. So that’s very transparent… The gap is that if you meet with a lobbying company you know you've met with them, but if people don't know who their clients are, they don't know who they're representing, then there's a gap there, and that’s what we've sought to address in our proposals." Not only is this to grossly misrepresent the actual purpose of a register, it is a false statement. Of the 5000+ meetings declared so far by ministers in this government, only five are with lobbying agencies where the client has not been declared. Other sections of the consultation document also seek to deliberately mislead. For example, the numbers of in-house lobbyists have been grossly underestimated, distorting industry figures that show that they make up three quarters of the industry. Certain key pieces of information have also been deliberately omitted. That the statutory register as proposed would simply put the existing flawed voluntary register of lobbyists, operated by the industry, on a statutory footing. A partial system of minimal disclosure is what the industry has been lobbying for. It has since been revealed that the government has been holding secret meetings with the industry for over a year to discuss its plans. At the same time refusing to meet with campaigners. It’s not without irony that the government has also sought to block the release of details of its dealings with lobbyists, requested under the Freedom of Information Act, for more than a year. The government’s clear opposition to a statutory register was further underlined when it was revealed at the weekend that the official responsible for drafting the government’s response, tweeted that she wished campaigners for greater transparency in lobbying ‘would die’. I wish [the campaign group] Unlock Democracy would die. I am prepared to help it along," she wrote. (Unlock Democracy, a member of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, had encouraged its members to write to the government with their concerns about the lengthy delays in publishing its plans for a register). She resigned at the weekend. A Parliamentary inquiry into the government’s proposals for a statutory register, and its approach to the policy will start on 2 February, when the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency is due to give evidence. We will be calling for immediate amendments to the consultation paper, and full disclosure of the government’s discussions with the industry. The Cabinet Office's consultation document can be downloaded here.

ALTER-EU's 'revolving doors' campaign update In November 2011, ALTER-EU launched a new campaign to block the revolving door. Many EU officials go through the 'revolving door' meaning that they leave their EU job and soon start working for industry or lobby firms, often in the same policy area. Other times, lobbyists go through the revolving door and start to work for the EU institutions. This type of 'job hopping' can create conflicts of interest, and is potentially harmful for public policy-making. If you haven't already read about this exciting new campaign, do check out the new website pages. And unfortunately the revolving door continues to spin. Just last week we heard that the former head of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet who stepped down in December 2011, will shortly join the board of mega arms company EADS. Never has blocking the revolving door become so important! Since the last newsletter, we have published new information on several revolving doors cases including Suzy Renckens who left the EU's food authority to join biotech company Syngenta and Thomas Lönngren, who left the EU's medicines regulator, and set up his consultancy and went to work for a pharmaceutical consultancy (add links). We are also very keen to work on revolving door cases involving the financial and banking industry (like this one: Do get in touch if you can help or know of any further such cases. But most importantly, MEPs now have an opportunity to try to tighten up the revolving door rules. Members of the Legal affairs (JURI), Budgetary Control (CONT) and Budget committees have the opportunity to amend a proposal from the Commission to change the rules governing EU staff's terms, conditions and ethical conduct.

If you would be willing to contact MEPs from your country about this, do please get in touch with us. This is urgent as the proposal is going through a fast track procedure and there is not much time! Please help us if you can. We can provide template materials as required. New ALTER-EU video This video gives a clear overview of ALTER-EU's raison d'être and objectives. It would be great if you could share this with your colleagues, members or on social media. The short link is:

Document types: