Wales ahead of Westminster on lobbying – Assembly Members back open and transparent approach

Published 27/06/2013   |   Last Updated 14/07/2014

Wales ahead of Westminster on lobbying – Assembly Members back open and transparent approach

27 June 2013

The National Assembly for Wales has not waited for Westminster to act but has already reviewed its own lobbying practices and guidance.

Presiding Officer, Rosemary Butler AM, asked the Assembly’s Standards of Conduct Committee last year to look at the arrangements in place for Assembly Members.

In its report, published last month (May 2013), the Committee concluded that the Assembly already has robust systems in place to ensure transparency and openness in the way that Assembly Members deal with external organisations and individuals.

The report recommended that the Assembly adopts a code of practice concerning lobbying and also strengthens the rules for the operation of Cross Party Groups.

However, the Committee felt that the approach taken in Wales was proportionate, and robust enough to negate the need for further legislation or a register of lobbyists.

The Independent Commissioner for Standards has told the Committee that current arrangements were “essentially sufficiently robust and fit for purpose”.

On 26 June Assembly Members backed the Committee’s proposals following a Plenary debate.  The lobbying guidance will now be adopted with immediate effect and the rules governing Cross Party Groups will be implemented from September 2013.

This inquiry process followed a letter sent by the Presiding Officer to the Secretary of State for Wales in March 2012.

In that letter, the Presiding Officer insisted that Assembly Members should be responsible for making decisions about future governance arrangements for the National Assembly.

“I wrote to the Secretary of State because I did not want the Assembly included in any future Westminster legislation because Wales does not face the same issues, and negative perception, surrounding lobbying that the UK parliament receives,” she said.

“We already have robust systems and guidance in place whereby it is a criminal offence for Members to benefit from relationships with lobbyists.

“I asked the Standards of Conduct Committee to review the Assembly’s processes to ensure openness and transparency in the system.

“In its report the Committee fully validated this approach but we should never be complacent. The Committee has made some positive recommendations which will further underpin the robust structures we already have in place, and today the Assembly unanimously agreed to adopt those proposals.

“So while Westminster struggles over the issue of lobbying, the National Assembly has acted to ensure that openness and transparency are pre-requisites of the way it conducts business.”