Caption. Image: 


Lobbying: why the FLA supports a UK register

The Finance & Leasing Association’s director of government affairs and stakeholder engagement, Edward Simpson, looks at the role of government lobbying in the UK.

Lobbying is a critical part of the policy-making process. It is the basis on which industry, NGOs and those with ‘skin in the game’ put forward evidence-based cases to decision-makers on the impact of introducing (or scaling back) legislation. Without such intervention, politicians and civil servants do not have the resources nor time to reach a considered position.

In recent weeks, the transparency of lobbying has hit the headlines. This happens periodically in the UK and is usually a result of what is deemed to be unacceptably close links between a former or current senior politician being paid by ‘big business’ or an ‘unsavoury’ international regime. At the nub of this criticism is individuals cashing in on their connections. The same arguments are made for senior civil servants working in the private sector either during or after their Whitehall career.

The whiff of scandal overlooks the significant contributions made by the likes of trade bodies such as the FLA to public policy development and the honest manner in which we conduct ourselves. To date, the statutory UK register only applies to ‘consultant lobbyists’ (ie, public affairs consultants) which represent around a fifth of all those involved in influencing Westminster, Whitehall, the devolved assemblies and the regions. 

As an organisation, we’d embrace signing up to a register and would be content for a record of meetings with senior regulators, ministers and parliamentarians to be made publicly available as is already commonplace with HM Treasury and Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Ministers.

The FLA has for the past decade appeared on the EU Transparency Register which highlights the signatory’s financial outlay (defined widely to include salaries and travel) on EU activity and is a prerequisite to meeting senior European Commission officials (which they must record).

The vast majority of public affairs professionals feel the same way.

Whilst such a measure would enhance the openness of how we lobbyists conduct business it would not address questions about the integrity of politicians and civil servants taking advantage of their positions of power. Perhaps the time has come to think about a register for former politicians and senior civil servants earning income derived from interaction with government.