George Eustice MP was pleased to be called to speak in a Westminster Hall debate entitled, "Parliamentary Lobbying".
George made the following speech, highlighting the complexity of the issue, and the need for a thoroughly considered response:
"I worked in the public affairs industry for a year in 2009, but for a company signed up to the Association of Professional Political Consultants, which adheres strongly to transparency. There is a danger of exaggerating such people’s influence. Hon. Members returning after this debate should look in their recycling bins to see how much power the people that we are fretting about actually have. The truth is that we are inundated with lobbying all the time, and we throw away most of it. At the end of the day, it is down to our judgment whether we believe these people. As MPs, we are approached by companies or pressure groups that often smack of commercial interest and we can spot it a mile off. We might also get people who do not articulate their case very well, but we are the ones who can judge that and give them a voice when they may not have one.
I agree that there is a need to improve transparency, and particularly a need for a register of lobbyists. They should be required to list their clients and disclose whether anyone who works for them has had a previous Government role. However, I am nervous about going down the route of disclosing every meeting with people who are trying to lobby us, because it suggests that we base our opinions on the number of people who have lobbied us about something, rather than exercise judgment, which is what we actually do.
My final concern about publishing the details of such meetings relates to an unintended consequence whereby people say, “You met that group, so why can’t you meet us? You’ve met the People’s Front of Judaea, but what about the Judaean People’s Front?” It is difficult enough for Ministers to balance their work load. Do we really want to create a situation whereby organisations start to feel that they almost have an entitlement to meet Ministers on the basis that they have met somebody else?"
To read the whole debate, including the Minister's response, click here