Statutory Register of Lobbyists - CIOT/ATT/LITRG consultation
The CIOT/ATT/LITRG comments on the Cabinet Office's consultation on 'Introducing a Statutory Register of Lobbyists'.
The consultation document is not really about whether there should be a register – far more about how it might be run and what organisations/activities should be in its ambit. The main target is undoubtedly firms that are paid by clients to do lobbying but, depending on the way the Register is developed, ATT (and LITRG and CIOT) could be drawn into it. The Register is likely to be self-funding – so if we are drawn in, we will have to pay for the privilege.
The consultation document and joint submission are available in Adobe (pdf) format.
The condoc proper is relatively brief; the questions posed are:
Definitions: What definition of lobbying should be used? How should lobbyists be defined?
Scope: Should lobbyists or firms acting on a pro bono basis be required to register? Should organisations such as Trade Unions, Think Tanks and Charities be required to register? How can public participation in the development of Government policy best be safeguarded?
Information to be included in the register: Should the register include financial information about the cost of lobbying and about any public funding received?
Frequency of returns: Should returns be required on a quarterly basis?
Additional functions: Should the register’s operator have any additional functions besides accurately reproducing and usefully presenting information provided by the registrants?
Funding: Should the lobbying industry meet the costs of the register and any associated functions?
Sanctions: Should penalties for non-compliance apply? If so, should they be broadly aligned with those for offences under company law?
The register’s operator: Who should run the register – a new body or an existing one? What sort of body should it be?
Some points that occur to us for our response – comments/endorsements/critiques welcome:
- The ambit is commercial lobby firms but it could be extended to charities etc – is this needed? Our immediate reaction is ‘no’ – restrict it to paid-for lobbying
- Could there be an argument that our members pay CIOT/ATT to lobby on their behalf as part of their subscription? Probably something to note in our response but reject the idea
- Should there be exclusions for bodies who have as part of their objectives the ‘public interest’? That would make sense – so exclude LITRG and probably CIOT/ATT.
- Self-funding would be expensive; for bodies like ATT (if covered) that would reduce other work we can do...we can see the argument for the industry doing this but we already regulate ourselves via TDB
- Would the register just be ‘ATT’, or all the technical team, or all the volunteers who sit on committees? It becomes more onerous the more people that are swept in.
- What would happen when we join together with one or more other bodies to make representations?
- Sometimes HMRC ask us for help in drafting things – that is not lobbying – so where would the line be between free consultancy and lobbying? This seems to come back to putting a dividing line between lobbying for greater public good and paid-for lobbying.
13 April 2012