The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to be working with The Hon. Robert Seely MP, on this report into the UK’s ability to protect itself from hostile foreign lobbying. The report explores steps taken by Australia and the United States, which have sought to bring transparency to an industry which seeks to shape and influence government policy and public opinion. In the US alone, foreign actors have spent more than US$2.3 billion (£1.77 billion) since 2016 to influence policy making through the use of registered “foreign agents”. For comparison, total spending in the 2016 US Presidential Election has been estimated at US$2.4 billion.
Since 1938, the US has required those individuals and firms representing foreign powers – their “agents” – to register and declare their work, through the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). In 2018, Australia adopted legislation modelled on FARA. The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act (FITSA) was devised in response to growing concerns about China’s influence in the country.
This report therefore recommends the UK Government follows this pattern and require all foreign agents involved in lobbying to register their work. A Foreign Lobbying Act (FOLO) would ensure transparency in democratic processes, public debate, and governmental decision-making. It would cover a significantly broader range of agents, activities and targets than are currently disclosed in the 2014 Lobbying Act, and would offer more protection to the UK against hostile states.
In the words of the Author:
“Britain badly needs to tighten its lobbying laws. At the moment we are an influence pedlars paradise. The UK needs a Foreign Lobbying Act (FOLO). The US and Australia have shown the way.”
“A FOLO would force foreign agents – and their proxies in the UK – to register themselves and thus make their existence and activities public knowledge. It would cover a significantly broader range of agents, activities and targets than are currently disclosed in the 2014 Lobbying Act, and apply stringent transparency measures to materials published and disbursement activities related to their activities.”
– The Hon. Robert Seely MP