Lobbying is a legitimate activity and an important part of the democratic process.
A democratic society is based on a pluralism of interests that holders of public office must navigate through in order to take reasoned decisions that favour the general good. In a healthy democracy, political representatives should be open to contact with their electorate, and citizens and interest groups should be able to communicate with administrative bodies; organise in associations and political parties; choose representatives in parliament; and generally participate in the political process. Lobbying enables those affected by public decisions to engage in the political process and also has the potential to enhance the quality of decision-making by providing channels for the input of valuable expertise.
There is a significant public interest in ensuring the transparency and integrity of lobbying, as well as diversity of participation and contribution to public decision-making.
Since lobbying is a part of the democratic process, it is important to ensure that there is diverse participation in public decision-making so that all viewpoints are taken into account. This should lead to better policy-making that favours the public interest.
A key tool to ensuring a level playing field in the decision-making process is transparency. Lobbying, and the impact it has on legislation and policies, should be made transparent so that society at large can know who exercises influence and how. Indeed, transparency of lobbying permits any stakeholder in society to react to ongoing lobbying with their own efforts. Transparency also makes politicians aware that the public is watching, and allows citizens to evaluate the decision-making process with more precision and then to take this into account when voting in the next elections.
Any regulatory measures to secure these ends shall be proportionate, fit for purpose and not impede on the individual rights of assembly, free speech and petition of government.
It is not the aim of lobbying regulation to simply burden a small segment of society, in particular lobbyists, with administrative obligations. Nor is it the aim to curtail the political rights of citizens. Lobbying regulation should be comprehensive enough to give citizens an accurate picture of how decisions are being taken and who is having an impact on legislation and policies, but it should not be instituted in such a way that it affects the rights of individual citizens, preventing them from gaining access to public decision-makers.