MPs have lined up to criticise the government’s lobbying bill for failing to include law firms. Under proposed legislation, only organisations with lobbying as their main business activity will need to register, leaving lawyers and accountants exempt.
During exchanges in the House of Commons last week, it was claimed the bill is too weak and does not go far enough to satisfy transparency campaigners.
‘The bill completely excludes 99% of lobbying activity,’ said Labour’s Jon Trickett, who noted that opposition was widespread. ‘One would not think that the people who campaign for lobbying and the people who campaign to constrain lobbying would inevitably share the same point of view but, in this case, without exception, both sides say that the bill is simply inadequate.’
Conservative MP and barrister Geoffrey Cox said: ‘In larger firms –for example, in major City law firms – it is now not uncommon for there to be specialist departments that deal with lobbying activities… there is a strong case, where such a specialist department exists, for that department to have to register as a lobbyist.’ Labour MP Thomas Docherty said the failure to capture firms in the lobbying bill was a ‘huge flaw’.
He singled out international firm DLA Piper as one that is both a law firm and lobbying consultancy and which could afford the proposed £25,000 registration fee.
The government’s measures survived two votes on the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. The bill goes to report stage in the Commons next month.