Lobbying

 

I am Wokingham’s chief lobbyist. One of an MP’s main roles is to lobby government on behalf of their constituents. MPs lobby for  changes and improvements in laws, public spending and administration, in the name of their constituents generally. They lobby for individual constituents, usually in private, when they need help to sort out their tax or benefit disputes with the government, or need better treatment  or redress from various public services.

A new Bill to regulate lobbyists is therefore  of special interest to MPs. There are already clear rules and conventions about how and when an MP or anyone else can lobby, and  when it is wrong to do so. An MP, for example, should not lobby on behalf of a private interest he or she has. A business can set out its case for a change to the law, or a charity can make its case for more public spending in its chosen area, but they must not seek to buy access to Ministers or splash cash in any way which looks like or is  a bribe.

The combination of Parliamentary convention, tighter modern Election law on donations to parties and individual MPs, the need for MPs to place every financial interest on a public register and the confrontational style of politics designed to tease out malpractice by the other side constitutes the current framework for controlling or regulating lobbying and access. The government now wishes to amend this framework with additional legislation.

As an MP I encourage my constituents to lobby me directly. There is no need to pay a penny for access to an MP. Every constituent has a right of free access by email, letter or in person, when they have a legitimate grievance or concern. Similarly,  access to Ministers is free access. Ministers will meet groups or even individuals with important things  to say about the conduct of government or future improvements, without a paid for lobbyist being  involved.

Lobbying firms may well have an important role to play. They are not buying people access to Parliament. They can be useful in helping a person or company marshall its case, understand the policy context, explain how decisions are made and laws enacted to busy people who may not have made a study of it themselves. Good lobbyists want you to comply with the law on influencing government, not break it, just as good accountants and lawyers offer specialist advice to individuals which keeps them compliant. Good lobbyists know the topic, tell you what ay or may not be achievable, and help the individual or company explain its issue to government.

As with all walks of life, there will be on occasions bad lobbyists who break existing conventions and laws, and who doubtless will break any new law as well if they think they can get away with it to advantage. Democratic politics cannot survive without lots of good and well informed lobbying. Another way of describing that is “democratic debate”.

 

 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

33 Comments

  1. Mike Stallard
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    When Chris Huhne broke the Code of the Woosters recently, his career ended. That is the ultimate sanction: he was/ is no longer clubbable.
    But shame is under attack. (Sometimes prominent figures break the code but are allowed back – names one Labour figure ed)
    The Bankers (remember Fred the Shred?) broke the Code too. The papers and media had a field day.

    Shame, not rules, must be the answer. Encourage shame! Encourage disgust!
    Heavens above, the BBC have been doing this now for years. Homophobia, Racism, Climate Denial, Toryism, Elitism… All good leftie scarewords. Disgust is much more effective on fragile egos than rules which, believe me, can easily be overlooked…

  2. John Pilcher
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Good Morning John,
    In parliament tomorrow I hope you will vote against Britains involvement in military action against Syria. This is a Muslim problem which the Muslim world must be allowed to solve. We as a country have no need for more of our people to die in another middle eastern theatre. Iraq and Afghanistan both being failures in my opinion. We will have to borrow even more money to fund this as we are in such a poor economic condition. We have Mr Cameron squeezing our armed forces budget remorselessly, yet he wants us to go to war on a use of nerve gas without proof of which side perpetrated the act.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Has the German parliament been recalled to debate this ? Or the French or Italian or Polish ? Or Canadian, or Brazilian or Indian ? Or Chinese ? Or Russian ?

      Simple strategy. Support agreed EU action (ie. nothing at all), or agreed UN action as part of a multi-national force only. End of story.

    • Nina Andreeva
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      If my son was in the armed forces I would be telling him now to resign. Its better to be on the dole than be maimed or killed for a country that is no threat to the UK. It seems that the “smoking gun” is going to be an old tape from Israel’s answer to GCHQ, Unit 8200. Sorry but after WMD in Iraq, no shots being fired in Helmand (as of May 444 dead British soldiers) I just do not believe HMG on any matter of national security, especially if it cannot pick up the sigint itself from its bases on Cyprus.

      Before anybody thinks I am being anti Israel here, no I am not as I cannot see what Israel gets out of regime change. If anything if Assad goes (and him and his father have generally behaved themselves since 1973) things get worse for them. The rockets have already began to land from inside Syria, presumably from the Saudi/Qatari armed gangs. While its too late to worry about cutting Hezbollah’s landline from Iran to the Lebanon as most military analysts believe they have enough missiles to flatten Tel Aviv
      already.

      As a final point Dave might it a bit painful if Mrs Assad turns up with her British passport at Heathrow and states she prefers to live with her father in Acton, rather than in exile in Moscow or Tehran

    • Hope
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      Nor has he made any case whatsoever what military action will achieve. Vile acts on both sides have been committed, gas is but one vile act. So, how will military action change anything and what will it achieve? The consequences of Iraq and Libya continue to this very day and untold thousands of people have died and been maimed, for what exactly?

    • gareth
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely agree with this comment – I am pleased to hear that my own MP David Amess will not be supporting any UK military action in Syria whatever the party whip having admitted having been duped by Tony Bliar and his cohorts in to supporting the Iraq war.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    It all ultimately depends on the honesty and judgement of MPs and bureaucrats at UK and EU level. They need to act in the interest of voters but so very rarely do.

    We have seen, with the expenses scandal, and with so much of the “consultancy” positions held that the system is often dreadful and corrupt. The legislation that emerges is so often clearly in direct response to lobbying for sectional interests. Often for large companies and directly against the interest of the public. The whole quack energy racket as perhaps the most outrageous and expensive example, HS2 as another.

    On HS2 I heard the minister Norman Baker rubbishing the IOD survey by suggesting the sample of 4% was low. If he were slightly numerate (he studied German and History) and knew a tiny bit of statistics & sampling theory he would know that even a far, far smaller random sample than the 4% gives a very, very good indication of overall feelings within the a group, as with polling for elections. The the feeling in the IoD was very strongly that is a very big waste of tax payers money, as it very clearly is.

    He also made the idiotic point that no one complains of grand project once they are build. Of course once you have build something daft you might as well use it, however mad the economic case for it was in the fist place. 500,000 properties blighted so just giving them an average of say £40,000 compensation each costs £20Bn. So many better ways it could be spend the money, why on earth are all three parties in favour of this folly? Could it be sectional interests, jobs for mates, lobbying and an excuse to force people to sell their properties?

    People work on trains anyway so who cares if is saves ten minutes, it is door to door journey times that count.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      High speed trains, by their nature, make fewer stops and so can actually increase door to door journey times and distances for many, they also use more energy in the process.

    • Hope
      Posted August 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      This is about spinning or the EU and detract blame away from the EU. It is and has been common practice for forty years.

  4. Nina Andreeva
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    I do not know about lobbyists but what I would like to see is at least a ten year ban on former ministers getting on the ” revolving door” and becoming involved with businesses that their departments may have had dealings with. A couple of blood pressure increasing examples from the last “to get rich is glorious” (names removed as I am unsure of the allegations ed). Remember most ministers have no business experience (or have even had a proper job in some circumstances) so what exactly are businesses hoping to get when their put an ex-minister on the board?

  5. Gary
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    And what about MPs getting future kickbacks as directorships and payments after they leave office, for decisions made during office ?

    Reply That would be illegal, and highly unlikely. Why would a business pay a bribe after they had got what they want?

    • Mark
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      There are several lines of business that are heavily dependent on subsidies to make them competitive with other technologies. Once they have persuaded government to subsidise them, they need to keep the subsidies flowing or the business will become bankrupt. In those circumstances, it helps to employ a (former or continuing) politician who knows the right civil servants and politicians – some of whom might even succeed to the position the ex politician is being paid for. The system becomes self-perpetuating, and against taxpayer interests.

      I suspect readers can think of several examples in recent years where this applies.

  6. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    It always strikes me as a difficult task for an MP to take up the many problems or instances of unfairness in any one area and understand the impact on an individual or groups lives.
    I sought help from a local MP a few years ago. He obviously found it difficult to focus on the problem I was presenting and was undergoing horrendous abuse himself from the opposition. I would have liked to have lobbied for him , if the situation he found himself in was not also controlled by outside regulation.
    There is a lot of unseen sway in politics .

  7. Nick
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    And yet we still have ( a peer ed) sitting in the Lords. He was caught on camera offering to sell changes to the law for cash. Lots of cash.

    Nothing has been done. Not one finger lifted to prosecute him at all. Same with all the other thieves and fraudsters.

    Very simple reason.(wrongly alleges 52% of MPs who were asked to repay money committed fraud, when most were asked to repay items legally claimed and approved under a scheme which was later thought to be too generous ed).

    (unproven allegation about police ed).

    The CPS is run by a politician put in place by his mates, who’ve paid back cash.

    The Lords won’t. They will just make it a state secret. I’ve had 5 state secrecy certificates from one of the people involved. Covering up his own role.

    So without any signs of action bar the token throwing to the wolves, we’ve all lost trust.

    Same when it comes to the accounts you promised at the election. Not one peep as to how much you owe us. It’s pretty obvious why. To suddenly reveal you owe 8 trillion not 1.2 because you lost the pensions down the back of the sofa would be treated as corruption.

    Reply I have published estimates of all the state debts including the basic retirement pension which has always been pay as you go. Successive Parliaments have voted for pay as you go state pensions. This is not fraud, though you might prefer a funded scheme.

  8. alan jutson
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    No John, you are not a lobbyist, what you are doing is a sensible part of your job.

    You are (or should be) acting as a last resort, when the Departments of State appear to be making errors or judgement against your constituants.

    Highlighting errors, or the unintended consequenses of government rules and legislation is surely the simple commonsense action of an MP interested in their job and constituants..

    Let us be clear, lobbyists are in it for personal gain, either paid for by their clients, of for themselves directly.

    Just out of interest, are you finding your work load increasing in line with increased Government regulations.

    Do you find you are often being asked for advice earlier than in previous years, and before all lines of communication have been attempted, instead of as a last resort.

    Reply NO to both questions.

  9. Posted August 28, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Interesting article Mr Redwood.

    but let me put a hypothetical situation to you that exposes the disenfranchisement of people seeking access to their elected MP.

    lets imagine that you were my MP but also the PM. And I (being perhaps involved in charitable work with the elderly) and sought to lobby you on let’s say the sub standard level of care for elderly residents within your own constituency where Government funding had been less than adequate or where priorities for such were being lets be charitable squandered on vanity projects.

    And let’s assume that the issues I were working towards improving were perhaps at odds with the policy of the Government of which you were the PM i.e. reduced funding or change in priorities.

    Now lets assume I continually lobbied you as my MP via perhaps e-mail, letter (both open and private) and in meetings regarding said issues and perhaps had gone to wider audience via my own blog to highlight and expose the variance of government policy versus local needs and also the reluctance of YOU as my MP to address said issues.

    Now one would think that YOU as MY MP would be seeking to change or implement policy to satisfy my needs and the majority of others holding such views within your own constituency wouldn’t you and that you would continue to engage with me to arrive a satisfactory result?

    Well actually the answer is no……in fact what would happen is that you would refuse to engage with me anymore writing to me to state that “Government policy overrides” and is more important than the wishes of local constituents” (who elected you!) and that you would “no longer respond to contact” from me.

    when I mean YOU I’m not speaking for you personally Mr Redwood (you may respond totally differently of course in such a hypothetical situation)

    BUT lets inject a dose of reality here;

    all of the above is in fact true and is the position a personal friend of mine has found themselves in who loves in Witney and whose MP is the current PM Mr. David Cameron.

    My friend after being told in writing that his MP the actual PM David Cameron (signed by Cameron himself and I’ve seen the letter) would no longer respond to him wrote to Cameron and asked him to explain why he was disenfranchising him?

    so what we have is an elected MP who is also the PM refusing to aid a constituent (in effect disenfranchising him) because the constituents needs were at odds with Government policy!

    if ever there was a better example of where true separation of powers were needed (why is the PM who is in effect the head of the Executive the government also an MP who is a part of the Legislative?) its a valid question.

    Now the above totally illustrates the defective nature of our current system of representativie democracy.

    Reply Having your own MP as PM can be an advantage. The MP will consider very carefully his constituents’ needs and wishes, and where he agrees as PM he can get governemnt policy changed easily. There will always be times when a constituent lobbies, but the MP/Minister disagrees, thinking some other policy is better.

  10. Bob
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    “They are not buying people access to Parliament.”

    From the Guardian 17/8
    The Tory party’s commercial brochure shows just 38% of delegates at the party’s annual meeting are members, while 36% are from companies, charities and other “exhibitors”. Around 20% of attendees were from the media.

    A similar brochure produced by the Liberal Democrats said 34% of attendees last year were voting members, while 11% were non-voting members, 36% were “observers” and 7% were “exhibitors”.

    All three major parties offer commercial opportunities at their conferences as a way to raise money but campaigners have long complained that the events offer a big opportunity for lobbying.

    This year, the Tories in Manchester are offering companies the chance to attend events from £5,000 a head, including an exclusive reception with the party chairmen or a business dinner.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Indeed surely the political parties are either, selling political influence to distort legislation in the interest of certain paying companies or lobby groups (and against those of the voters) or they are just obtaining money under false pretences?

  11. Roy Grainger
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    “Lobbying firms may well have an important role to play. They are not buying people access to Parliament.”

    The unions however ….

    • Bazman
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      The unions are lobbing for the lowest in society and workers rights to fair conditions and pay. Who else is doing it in your fantasy world Roy? The political parties? Business? No they are not.

  12. Mike Wilson
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood – I have read that you can ‘buy’ a dinner invitation to 10 Downing Street.

    Is that true?

    Reply Not to my knowledge.

    • Pleb
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      Ive read that a party donor of 10k gets to have dinner with the PM. Im not sure where the dinner is held.

  13. Tad Davison
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    An interesting topic. I have lobbied many MPs in my time, without payment of any kind either way, but always armed with an irrefutable argument.

    It is also interesting to note how many didn’t take any notice, and I often wonder if money had greased the wheels of the state machine, how many MPs might have changed their tune?

    There are of course still people of great integrity at Westminster, but in their case, I was pushing on an open door anyway, and it was easy to have questions asked about a particular issue. But the rest baffle me, like the local Lib Dem MP for Cambridge, Julian Huppert, who when speaking on the issue of crime, assured me in writing that ‘deterrents don’t work’. I was so exasperated by the man, that I hardly felt it worthwhile pointing out, that in which case, they weren’t deterrents, and we must up the ante until a position is reached where deterrents definitely DO work!

    The EU is another case in point. No matter how many times the pro-EU argument is knocked flat by lobbyists and others, its supporters refuse to conceded ground and instead, tow (correct spelling as taken from the practise of towing canal barges) the party line. Perhaps with an eye on their own careers and advancement, some are thus influenced and induced by money and power in an indirect way, and will put that ahead of the wishes of their constituents, or even the greater public good. And we all know who they are, don’t we! One quick look at the voting record tells us much about those we are dealing with!

    They could be kissed by as many princesses as they like, they’d still be toadies!

    Lobbyists do have a role to play in our nation’s politics, but their argument should always be for the greater public good and for fairness. Beware the vested interests that ultimately makes somebody richer whilst damaging the prospects of others.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

  14. forthurst
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Lobbying is an extremely important issue to get right otherwise it can destroy the single purpose for the existance of democratic government. This situation has already been passed in the USA. There, lobbying groups assist in the vetting of candidates, the contruction of foreign policy, the construction of financial, media and industrial policy including that of the surveillance and internal security industries as well as the drafting of legislation. The MSM, itself having successfully achieved legal consolidation of an original multiplicity of assets, can charge political parties enormous fees for access (adverts) and can either promote (Obama), attack or more likely totally ignore (Ron Paul) candidates it does not like. (Banks and defence interests have too much influence-ed) In the USA, your vote does not count.

    There was an interesting documentary on TV, therefore not on our MSM,
    about the democratic process in Brussels; there the armed camps of the lobbyists have totally surrounded the Commission from where they can brief the Commissioners in an atmosphere of overwhelming congeniality.
    That is not the end of the story: the Commissariat duly produces the legislation to put before the Parliament; the MEPs then perform their vital democratic role for which they are justifiably well remunerated by voting aye to everything put before them (unless they are UKIP, in which case they are either attending to their constituents elsewhere or giving Mr van Rumpuy some much needed personal publicy before voting no.) Thus, 80% of our law is made.

    Bearing in mind the foregoing, the issue of lobbying in the UK is obviously far less important. However, I would take a fairly narrow view on the grounds that MPs are elected to serve their constituents; without a primary focus on that role, there is no point in having a parliament at all. I think that lobbying on behalf of foreign powers or individuals for whatever purpose, whatsoever, should be totally outlawed. Foreign powers should make representations to the government through their accredited representatives and in no other way. When it comes to policy issues concerning general areas of law affecting businesses or other interest groups, it would be most appropriate if this was done through appropriate committees of MPs; for businesses etc where employees are constituents, obviously MPs would legimately wish to take a personal interest. Bearing in mind the out of control lobbying situation in Brussels, it is pointless addressing the issue of lobbying of MPs without addressing the issue of lobbying of civil servants, spads, whoever, might be able to influence policy directly or indirectly as well.

  15. julian
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    The relationship between the lobbying industry and parliament is far too cosy. Too many ex lobbyists are MPs for example which is not healthy. Big business gets legislation passed often to the detriment of its smaller competitors. It needs much more regulation to stop the current abuses. The main opinions that MPs and legislators should heed are those of the voters not external organisations whether they are businesses, charities or local councils.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      Indeed one needs Honourable Members, who act honourable in the interests of voters, alas so very few are.

  16. uanime5
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Regarding lobbying I feel a distinction needs to be drawn between those who lobby an MP for a change in the law and those who lobby the public about an issue (such as a pressure group). The latter should not be treated the same way as the former.

  17. Mark
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    The lobbying I find most objectionable is that conducted by “charities” and other organisations that are funded by government itself to promote a particular agenda. It’s even worse when the funding continues due to inertia, because the budget is buried somewhere deep in Civil Service control, and the minister is at best only dimly aware of it.

    Examples can be found readily in the aid industry, green energy, railways, health and education. Often, it is a way around limitations on political spending controlled by the Electoral Commission. It should be subjected to the same kinds of limitations, with transparency on funding sources. Perhaps there ought to be at least the opportunity for an “equal time” opposing view, much in the manner of election broadcasts.

  18. gareth
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Lobbying is anti-democratic – voters have the right to vote every 5 years and to lobby their own MP – how could anyone think it right for professional lobbyists to have rights in excess of these basic voter rights – why should they be able to command the ears of MP’s that are not their own constituency MP – I cannot do it so why should people who waive their cheque books around have greater rights than me as professional lobbyists?

  19. Pleb
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Was my post ignored?

  20. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted August 29, 2013 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    Would Mr Redwood have been a less good MP if he had totally ignored all lobbyists who were not constituents. Perhaps, but we would possibly have a lot fewer people, companies and charities who got special concessions on tax if all MPs had shunned lobbyists. There are, for example, 38 CEOs of ‘non-profit making’ charities who earn in excess of £100,000.

  21. cosmic
    Posted August 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Far more worrying than conventional lobbying is the way that NGOs have become part of government, are paid by governments to lobby governments and also work at a level above government, such as UN bodies.

    The curious history of the way the CCA was prepared is a case in point.

    This aspect of lobbying seems widely overlooked.

  22. Kenneth R Moore
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    The fact that the Government seriously considered arming the ‘rebels’ shows how out of touch and unfit for making important decisions they are. Who is to decide whether individuals are fighting for a noble cause or terrorists ?. Furthermore why did the government think for one second that it is appropriate to lay guns into the hands of individuals with no military training or in many cases no formal education ?.

    The whole debate between evil dictator Assad and the ‘rebels’ is phoney and infantile but it’s all the BBC ever talk about. We need to stop trying to imprint our own systems and beliefs onto a foreign country we do not understand.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

    Promoted by David Edmonds on behalf of John Redwood both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU

  • John’s Books

  • Email Alerts

    You can sign up to receive John's blog posts by e-mail by entering your e-mail address in the box below.

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    The e-mail service is powered by Google's FeedBurner service. Your information is not shared.

  • Map of Visitors

    Locations of visitors to this page