'Curb lobbyists' call to MPs

23 January 2008 - 4:20pm
Press release

The coalition points to the latest in a series of abuses by lobbyists in which an obesity charity financed by the weight loss industry misled MPs over its funding - uncovered days before the UK government announced its obesity strategy yesterday.

The new group is called ALT, the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, (www.lobbyingtransparency.org), a coalition of civil society groups. It is calling on the government to introduce rules that require the disclosure of lobbying activities, allowing greater public scrutiny and improving British parliamentary accountability.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "We know of several instances of corporate lobbying which has successfully turned government policy against poor people in developing countries. We are pressing for lobbying to be made transparent so that people know whose interests lie behind ministers' decisions."

Members of ALT have been called to give evidence today to the lobbying inquiry by the Commons public administration select committee Professor David Miller and Dr William Dinan, from Strathclyde University and the organisation Spinwatch, argue that industry self-regulation cannot ensure adequate transparency and is unlikely to command broad public confidence. They will cite recent examples of lobbying malpractice, including the charity TOAST (The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust), a lobbying group funded by the weight loss industry, which misled MPs over its funding sources. The charity claimed to be "completely independent" and to "derive its income from individual donations and membership fees". But an investigation revealed that almost all of its funding came from the diet company LighterLife. Nine of 21 parliamentary patrons recruited by TOAST have now said on record that they were not told of the links between TOAST and Lighterlife.

Professor Miller said: "The public has a right to know on whose behalf lobbyists are working, how much money is involved, and the areas of policy they are seeking to influence. Specialist lobbying companies are adept at finding ingenious ways to disguise the role of their clients, which is why genuine full disclosure is so important."

The key ALT demands are:

  • a mandatory public register of lobbyists, with complete financial disclosure.
  • enforceable regulations on ethics for all lobbyists.
  • improved rules on politicians and public officials who become lobbyists and members of public bodies, with privileged access to decision makers.

 

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

 


NOTES TO EDITORS:

 

 

  • Members of ALT are: War on Want, Spinwatch, Unlock Democracy (formerly Charter 88), Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, National Union of Journalists, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, ActionAid, World Development Movement, Pesticides Action Network, Platform, Corporate Watch, SPEAK Network, Campaign Against Arms Trade.
  • Members of ALT will give evidence to the Commons public administration select committee inquiry into lobbying at 10.00 am today in the Thatcher Room at Portcullis House, Victoria Embankment, London SW1 2JH.
  • see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/mps-conned-over-obesity-charity-that-was-front-for-diet-firm-771266.html
  •  

     

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