Lobbying crackdown will hit trade unions hardest

NEW LAWS designed to clamp down on the lobbying industry will impose tough restrictions on the political activities of Labour-supporting trade unions, according to a draft published yesterday.

The coalition bill promises a “lobbying register” of contact between lobbyists and politicians and was drawn up after newspapers last month exposed politicians who were willing to accept money for influence.

But the bill also contains many measures that appear to be especially designed to frustrate unions, such a reduction in the amount third party campaigning organisations can spend during elections to £390,000.

Labour could be hit hard by the move as it receives substantial support from third party union campaigns, which will also now be included in party spending limits. The union Unison alone spent more than £670,000 in this manner during the 2010 general election.

Unions will also be legally required to keep accurate records of their membership and avoid inflating their support.

Professional lobbying firms also highlighted loopholes in the proposed legislation, such as the fact they will only have to publish a list of their clients if they meet with ministers or top-level Whitehall mandarins.

Lobbyists who do not work for an external consultancy will be excluded from the rules, while financial PRs will be largely exempt from the rules.

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