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Getting candidates to disclose their interests

A campaign asking prospective parliamentary candidates to disclose their lobbying links has been launched by 38 Degrees and the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency. The 38 Degrees website calls on its supporters:

Together let’s ask our parliamentary candidates to commit to coming clean over any links they have to lobbying and to support the introduction of a compulsory register of all lobbying activity – so we can find out easily who is trying to influence our politicians.

It is an important issue. Another key question, however, is what the candidate intends to do once elected – whether they will continue working with the lobbying company or resign. The same goes for second jobs in general – that the public should know whether the candidate will give up their current job or not (and whether they intend to have any other sources of income). Like lobbying, in some circumstances, employing MPs provides a way for outside interests to get a foot in the door and influence political decisions. While all of these details will be revealed in the Register of MPs’ Interests if the person is elected, it would be good for voters to know this before casting their vote.

The importance of candidate transparency was stressed in the Kelly report in November last year, which made the following proposal:

All candidates at parliamentary elections should publish, at nomination, a register of interests including the existence of other paid jobs and whether they intend to continue to hold them, if elected. The Ministry of Justice should issue guidance on this in time for the next general election. Following the election, consideration should be given as to whether the process should become a statutory part of the nominations process.

In December, the government made the following response in the House of Commons:

The Ministry of Justice will discuss the approach with the Electoral Commission and others as appropriate before guidance is issued, in time for the next general election. A decision about whether to implement this on a statutory basis will, as the Committee suggests, be taken in the next Parliament.

As far as I know , the guidance requiring the disclosure of interests has yet to be published  (though I would be interested to know if there has been any movement on this) – and time is running out. In the meantime, the 38 Degrees and Alliance for Lobbying Transparency campaign provides some political pressure.

UPDATE – on 22 March, the Ministry of Justice published guidance for candidates’ declarations of interests, though such a declarations are made only a voluntary basis.

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