11 Jan 2018

Commission delays decision on register, but puts into place steps to improve transparency in government.

Lobbying E

In early 2017, the Standards of Conduct Committee began a consultation into lobbying of the Welsh Assembly and Welsh Government, looking at how to improve transparency. One proposal included the creation of a statutory or voluntary register of lobbyists.

However, following consultation, including written and oral evidence from WCVA among others, a decision on a register has been delayed until the review of the Lobbying (Scotland) Act takes place in 2020, which will assess the effect of the recently-introduced Scottish register.

In our evidence, WCVA said:

  • That while we fully support transparent government, the idea of a register needs detailed exploration due to the negative connotations of the word 'lobbying' that could prevent organisations engaging with democracy, and the potential administrative burden a register could have on the sector
  • That meetings Assembly Members have with those seeking to influence them should be published online
  • That the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act (known as the Lobbying Act) continues to stifle legitimate awareness-raising activity during election periods

A report from the Committee says that there was little support for a voluntary register. They make a case for a statutory register, citing evidence supporting the need for more transparency, but stress the importance of proportionality in its execution. However, the lack of clarity around a definition of the word 'lobbying' is an issue, with the word's negative connotations alarming third sector respondents who may engage in campaigning work but would not consider themselves lobbyists precisely because of those connotations.

Besides waiting to assess the Scottish Act, the Commission has put forward other recommendations:

  • To develop a pilot scheme in which a number of AMs, including those on the Commission. voluntarily disclose meetings with lobbyists and interest groups.
  • To publish information about all Assembly Member sponsored events, not just those that take place on Assembly property.
  • To commission research mapping out routes of influence to build an informed evidence base and consider alternative ways to improve transparency
  • To 'consider' sections of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act (known as the Lobbying Act) which apply to Wales once the Wales Act 2017 is enacted.

David Cook, WCVA Policy Officer, said: 'WCVA strongly believes in a transparent democracy; however we have a number of concerns around the idea of a register of lobbyists that should be looked at.

 'This being the case, we think delaying a decision until the impact of the register in Scotland is more clearly known is correct. We are also pleased to hear about the pilot scheme disclosing AM's meetings with lobbyists - this is a step forward for transparency.

'The news about the Lobbying Act is encouraging; however the report offers few details on this and so we will monitor further developments.'