Senedd requests further work on measures to improve lobbying transparency

The Motion (Final/Amended Version)

The Senedd:

  • Notes it’s the only national legislature in the UK without a lobbyist register.
  • Calls upon the Assembly Commission to provide an update on the actions it’s taken since the publication of the Standards Committee report on lobbying in January 2018.
  • Welcomes the intention of the Standards Committee to give further consideration to lobbying before the end of the fifth Assembly.

Stink of corruption?

Caroline Jones AM (BXP, South Wales West) accepted lobbying was a legitimate part of a healthy democracy and was often the main avenue for advocacy for certain causes and to properly inform decision-makers.

She went on to mention some lobbying scandals involving the UK Government in the 1990s and 2000s, which resulted in a statutory register to tackle a “revolving door” culture where politicians leave office and find work in lobbying firms.

When she claimed a previous Labour Cabinet was “available for hire by lobbyists”, former junior UK Minister, Huw Irranca-Davies AM (Lab, Ogmore),  considered it an abuse of parliamentary privilege (you can say anything in the chamber without the risk of civil or criminal claims).

Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central) said that while he supports the principle behind the debate, he’s never come across any lobbying malpractice and nobody has ever come to him asking for a lobbying register:

“I have to say, generally, in 12 years of work in this Assembly, both in committee work and standing as an AM, and as former leader of the Welsh Conservative group, I can genuinely believe and stand here with integrity in saying that all the interactions that I’ve had with lobbyists, with constituents, have always been in the best interests of what those individuals and organisations are seeking to promote.”
– Andrew RT Davies AM

He thought it was better dealt with by the Standards Committee – of which he’s a member. Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) later added that his party’s official position is in favour of a register.

An ongoing dialogue

Chair of the Standards Committee, Jayne Bryant AM (Lab, Newport West), said her committee’s report was only an interim position and part of an ongoing process. Ministerial diaries are now being published quarterly and she mentioned that a pilot scheme for AMs was in development.

Spurning the opportunity to make a case for a lobbying register, Neil McEvoy AM (Ind, South Wales Central) went on a score-settling tirade against other AMs (the full list including Carwyn Jones, Leanne Wood, Adam Price and, completely at random, Alun Davies) as well as the black heart of all that is evil in Welsh politics – Deryn. All lobbyists were “z-class bullies” and he took exception to being called a liar and a bully himself.

Deputy Minister & Chief Whip, Jane Hutt AM (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan), said the responsibility ultimately lie with the Standards Committee on how to take things forward.

Vote

It’s been claimed on social media that this was a rejection of a lobbying register – but that’s fake news. There is support for reform but no clear agreement yet on a single way forward.

Following the debate, the Assembly Commission issued a statement outlining, as AMs requested, the actions it’s taken since the Standards Committee report (pdf).

  • Security passes for Assembly staff are deactivated on the last day of employment and no lobbyist holds a security pass.
  • All AM-sponsored events on the Senedd estate are routinely published on the Senedd website and following complaints that private and informal meetings were being included, an alternative approach is being worked on.
  • Preparations have been underway for a voluntary scheme for AMs to declare/disclose meetings with lobbyists and public interest groups in 2020.
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