by Holly Walker
Today was the first day of oral submissions on my Lobbying Disclosure Bill. There were some great contributions from those who submitted, including some very constructive ideas for the committee to consider.
The biggest news, however, was that the Labour will withdraw their amendment, which had called for the exclusion of unions and the community and voluntary sector from any lobbying disclosure regime.
This is great news. I have been clear from the beginning that there shouldn’t be exemptions for entire sectors and that any lobbying disclosure regime must apply across the board to all types of individuals or organisations that undertake paid lobbying activity. Anything less would not give a clear picture of influence. The legimate concerns of smaller organisations can be dealt with by amending the bill’s substantive provisions, like the definition of lobbying, and the reporting requirements.
Labour’s decision to withdraw the amendment was reinforced by submitters we heard from today, including from the unions and NGO sectors, who made it clear that they did not support any moves to exempt their sectors.
The overwhelming message from submitters today was that there is strong support for the intent of the bill and the principle of greater transparency around lobbying activity. Submitters agreed that the bill is likely to require substantive amendment to ensure a regime that achieves this purpose but remains practical and fair, and many offered constructive suggestions about how this might be achieved. It’s encouraging to see such support for the intent of the bill, which reinforces the unanimous support the bill received at its first reading, and exciting to have some helpful suggestions for the committee to consider.
Submissions will continue next week.