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critique of uk proposals to regulate lobbying July 23, 2013

Posted by Bradley in : transparency , add a comment

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency describes the new UK proposals in the “Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14” as plans to set up a “fake register.” As the Alliance points out, the proposals to regulate lobbying are to apply to “consultant lobbying” which is defined to occur where in the course of a business and in return for payment, the person makes communications “personally to a Minister of the Crown or permanent secretary” on behalf of another person or persons relating to legislation, government policy, contracting, grants, licensing and authorizations and governmental functions. The complexity of this definition and what it covers and doesn’t cover is quite dramatic. I don’t know what making communications “personally” means (written and oral communications are covered). You have to look at Schedule 1 to the Bill to see that consultant lobbying does not include people and firms whose “business .. is mainly a non-lobbying business” (firms of solicitors, for example). Nor does it include people and firms which act “generally as a representative of persons of a particular class or description” where “the income of the person .. derives wholly or mainly from persons of that class or description”, and “the making of communications within section 2(3) on behalf of those persons is no more than an incidental part of that general activity” (trade associations, environmental groups etc.). But the transparency word in the Bill title isn’t really apt here.

From the Government’s perspective it looks as though the really important lobbying-related issue is to do with Trades Unions: there’s a consultation paper about how to create more transparency with respect to trades unions which states:

As membership organisations, it is important that trade union decisions reflect the will of all their members. Knowing who their members are and being able to engage them is intrinsic to a union’s democratic accountability.

What about other membership organizations that take positions on policy? Why not make trade associations disclose who all their members are and how the positions they take on policy issues reflect the interests of their members?

transparencies: spying and trade negotiations July 2, 2013

Posted by Bradley in : transparency , add a comment

Henri Malosse, President of the European Economic and Social Committee said he was “shocked by the level of naiveté on the part of the European institutions” which objected on revelations of US spying. It’s difficult to believe that the objections were down to naivete rather than an act. But Malosse does make some very good points about who is granted seats at the tables where policies are worked out:

I am even more shocked by the fact that concerning trade negotiations, the European Commission applies the policy of blackout on its entire mandate on the draft transatlantic market, for example, by denying access to some meetings to legitimate representatives of trade unions, to civil society, to small and medium-sized enterprises, to the European Economic and Social Committee, the second assembly of the EU, and even the European Parliament itself.
While at the same time, the Commission maintains no secret with regard to certain lobbies – particularly those of large companies, but also apparently … for the “big ears” of our American cousins​​!”

but then felix salmon lost out with a bank too July 1, 2013

Posted by Bradley in : consumers , add a comment

Not just the poor. Felix Salmon describes his experience with costly “free banking” here. Perhaps we should make the CEOs of employers who pay their employees with prepaid cards pay themselves with those same cards? And subject the CEOs of large banks to the sort of consumer-friendly treatment described in Salmon’s article?

the poor lose out: nytimes on wages via prepaid cards July 1, 2013

Posted by Bradley in : consumers , add a comment

Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Stephanie Clifford have a great (but depressing) article in today’s NY Times. Banks and employers are increasingly paying hourly paid employees via prepaid cards which carry a range of fees which the payees have to incur to access their money. Employers are given financial incentives to use these cards. There’s a great quote from Chuck Harris, the president of NetSpend, the largest issuer of these cards:

We built a product that an employer can fairly represent to their employees as having real benefits to them

He doesn’t say that the cards actually have real benefits to employees but that employers can “fairly represent” that they do. Netspend’s mission is:

to provide products and services that empower consumers with the convenience, security and freedom to be self-banked

Of course this isn’t about empowerment at all, but about cynical exploitation of those with few choices and limited voice.