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MPs agree lobbying bill goes too far

Wednesday 26 Sep 2012 5:58 p.m.

By Political Editor Duncan Garner

A bill designed to make the lobbying of MPs more transparent may have had unintended consequences like stopping voters from even approaching an MP in public, and now all political parties agree that it needs a rewrite.

The Greens want all lobbyists registered and all activity to be transparent and disclosed, but even they admit their bill needs changes.

“We could end up with a bill that is very different, and I'm open to that,” says Green MP Holly Walker.

The bill requires even informal conversations with MPs to be disclosed, and Labour MP Trevor Mallard points out that it could stop MPs doing their job.

Mr Mallard says the bill could stop MPs from doing tasks such as taking a request from the local food bank about a beneficiary or responding to requests and approaches from parents on the sidelines of the sports field. It could even prohibit talking to locals at the supermarket.

“There is small stuff that gets captured here that I think means it's hard to do our job properly and for the public might mean we are scary people to approach,” says Mr Mallard.

“This bill is not designed to prevent [people] from doing that, and if we need to make it clearer we should,” says Ms Walker.

Labour wants an exemption for unions, but Mr Mallard has broken ranks and says he's uncomfortable with that.

“I'm not sure whether unions should be exempted or not - it's one of the live issues,” he says.

Ms Walker wants unions included.

“I think anything less would not give a clear picture of influence,” she says.

So this bill in its current form needs serious changes. Stopping an MP from talking to a voter in the street is simply ludicrous and is clearly an unintended consequence. Most in Parliament agree more transparency is needed - but that goes too far - and no party wants that.

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