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MP to shed light on corridors of power

October 17, 2006 5:18 PM

David Howarth, MP for Cambridge, is today launching a campaign to bring the murky world of political lobbying out into the open.

Mr. Howarth is introducing a new clause against lobbying in the Report Stage of the Companies Bill (formerly known as the Company Law Reform Bill). If passed, Mr. Howarth's clause would ensure that companies would have to report expenditure on lobbying and to gain the permission of their shareholders, as happens now with corporate donations to political parties.

At the moment expenditure on lobbyists is not counted as corporate political activity and so can be kept secret. Mr. Howarth hopes that his legislation would bring lobbying out into the public domain, allowing members of the public to see what firms are funding political lobbying.

Mr. Howarth commented:

David Howarth MP

David Howarth MP

"The work of lobbyists needs to be brought out into the open. Companies and wealthy individuals can have enormous influence over Government through lobbyists and All Party Parliamentary Groups. Government should not simply mediate between the interests of different industries and it is important that the public is aware when this is happening."

Under the proposed clause companies will have to gain the agreement of their shareholders in order to employ lobbyists. When a similar requirement was introduced for companies wishing to invest in political parties the amount of investment fell.

The environmentalist George Monbiot has recently written an article in the Guardian which points out the role of powerfully anti-climate change lobbyists, funded by Exxon-Mobile in both the United States and the UK.