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Compulsory lobby register moves closer

EU Parliament calls for Book of Fat Lunch

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A compulsory register of lobby companies revealing which companies or organisations are paying their bills comes a step nearer today.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution yesterday in favour of such a register, which would list groups seeking to influence either Parliament or the Commission.

The Parliament proposes a "one-stop-shop" where lobbyists could register for both the Commission and Parliament, and to limit the number of security passes issued to each company to four. It noted that a voluntary register would allow "less responsible lobbyists to avoid compliance".

The Parliament welcomed the Commission's decision to ask for financial transparency. This means lobby groups, NGOs, think tanks, law firms and consultancies which seek to influence policy would have to reveal their turnover, the relative weight of their different clients and estimates of the costs of their lobbying activities. A detailed breakdown of the total Brussels lunch bill could make interesting reading.

In the UK this week the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee held a public evidence meeting on the "revolving door" between government departments and private sector lobbyists. PASC is looking at whether the lobbying industry in the UK needs external regulation as it does in the US. It heard from Lord Warner, an ex-health minister who now advises eight health companies, and Richard Cabon who is paid over £70,000 to advise nuclear construction firm Amec.

The IT industry has had an often controversial role in lobbying European institutions. There was heavy criticism of dodgy campaigns in favour of software patents in 2005. In its battle with the European courts Microsoft drafted in big companies and even the US government to lobby on its behalf. ®

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