Lobbying and business influence in government at a high level. MPs receive millions for lobbying
We have frequently drawn attention to the issue of corporate influence on our political process and in particular, the role of oil and arms companies. We have recently seen three leaders from China, Egypt and India, visit the UK and be given the red carpet treatment. Each has – to put it mildly – a poor human rights record.
In the case of China it includes the use of torture, shutting down the freedom of speech and more executions than the rest of the world put together. Egypt has been involved in mass arrests and torture and President Modi of India has a dubious record in terms of the treatment of Muslims.
It seems as though the ‘prosperity agenda’ is eclipsing all else and the only thing that matters seemingly, is the pursuit of business and contracts. No one is arguing for boycotts but that the issue of human rights be brought up in discussion with these leaders.
A factor in this is the role of lobbyists and a recent analysis by Transparency International is worrying and should receive wider coverage.
Analysing the new UK Register of Lobbyists and data from Parliamentary registers of interests, their new research has found:
- Less than 4% of lobbyists are covered by the Government’s new lobbying register – almost all lobbyists are completely unaccountable.
- 8/10 of the most frequent lobbyists are from FTSE 100 companies – lobbying is dominated by the corporate world.
- £3.4 million paid to 73 MP’s last year for external advisory roles – a significant risk of conflicts of interest.
- Payments for Parliamentary advice is still allowed in the House of Commons, but prohibited in the House of Lords, Scotland and Wales – a major loophole in the rules (TI’s emphasis)
The findings come after detailed analysis of research across Westminster, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The report can be read on their web site or can be accessed here. [There is also a permanent link to their site at the bottom of our page under ‘Links‘]
With such a high level of corporate lobbying and with the substantial level of fees MPs are earning, it is perhaps not surprising that business interests get such a high profile and human rights issues so low.
It appears from the report that the situation has got worse under the new government. There were some publications of meetings with lobbyists concerning the previous year but that now seems to have stopped. Most of the lobbying it seems is around domestic matters for example, firms trying to get a slice of the health service.
Business is important and of course companies should be free to lobby. But it should be transparent and registered. More importantly, business interests should not trump all else. The government is not after all some kind of selling operation for FTSE 100 companies.
UPDATE: 16 NOVEMBER
It’s not about human rights but as if to illustrate the point, it’s just been reported the ex Health Minister, Lord Lansley, is to take up posts with firms hoping to profit from the NHS.