Unbalanced in favour of business: In a functioning democracy, everyone has the right to lobby – to present their case to government and Parliament in the hope of influencing their decisions. However, at the moment, most lobbying is done by or on behalf of commercial interests. This has led to concerns of an imbalance between the access and influence of commercial interests and other, less well funded groups.
Commercial interests lobby politicians and officials for a number of reasons. They may want to build reputation among decision-makers; secure public funding or win government contracts; or push for, amend or halt legislation and regulation in the interests of their business.
The estimated pay-off for such lobbying activity, based on figures from the US, is 1:100. For every $1 spent on lobbying activity, a business can expect a typical return of $100.
Opaque, unregulated, and unaccountable: Unlike in the US, which has disclosure rules for lobbyists in the form of a register, the industry in the UK is almost entirely unregulated, unaccountable, and operates largely out of sight. At the moment there is no way for politicians and the public to know who is lobbying whom, which areas of public life they are trying to influence, and how much money is being spent in the process.
Instead, lobbyists in the UK operate under a system of self-regulation, operated by three industry bodies: The Association of Professional Political Consultants (for public affairs consultancies), The Public Relations Consultants Association (for PR firms with a lobbying arm), and The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (for in-house PR people and lobbyists).
This system of self-regulation was condemned in a 2009 Parliamentary report into lobbying. The inquiry by the Public Administration Select Committee found it risked being “little better than the Emperor’s new clothes”. The cross-party Committee of MPs recommended instead that the UK government introduce a mandatory register of lobbying activity "to bring greater transparency to the dealings between Whitehall decision makers and outside interests."