CBI's secrets revealed
After a long battle the Government has been ordered to disclose previously secret lobbying records.
The records include meeting records between the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
The judgement, published on 1 May 2008, followed a court case won by Friends of the Earth.
A long hard battle
In July 2005 Friends of the Earth requested details of lobbying meetings between the CBI and DTI.
In 2007 the Information Commissioner ordered the DTI to release most of the information requested.
However the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR), which replaced the DTI, appealed to the Information Tribunal to overturn the decision.
DBERR and the CBI claimed that if their meetings records were disclosed it could prevent future meetings which could damage Government decision making.
But in a 4-day hearing the court heard evidence, from a number of business lobby groups, which supported greater transparency.
Strong public interest
The Tribunal ruled that nearly all of the disputed information must be released.
It stated there is a strong public interest in understanding how lobbyists influence Government.
The Tribunal found that the lack of a lobbying disclosure system, as they have in the US, increased the need for transparency.
If lobbying takes place in secret, the public is in no position to assess whether decisions are taken in the public interest or biased towards industry.
Bring lobbying out of the shadows
The current arrangements leave the general public in the dark.
Lobbyists go round and round the revolving door into roles as public servants and back again.
The one-time Director General of the CBI, Sir Digby Jones (now Lord Jones of Birmingham) has since been a Minister at DBERR.
This case is an important step in the right direction.