Minister Howlin’s Regulation of Lobbying Bill is enacted

Issued 11 March 2015

On 11th of March 2015, the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 was signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins.

Speaking about this legislation, Minister Howlin said,

“The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015, establishes a register of lobbying to make information available to the public on the identity of those who are communicating with Government and senior civil and public servants on public policy matters.  Essentially we will create a web based registration system of lobbying activity which will tell us

Who is lobbying whom about what?

Active lobbying is an essential element of a well-functioning and mature democracy. The purpose of lobbying by individuals or groups is to inform Government as to different societal and sectoral perspectives on public policy matters and also to seek to influence decisions taken at political and administrative level.   The institutions of Government need to hear from these varying interests in order to make well informed and grounded decisions balancing wider societal needs against the requirements, expectations and experiences of varying interests across the economic and social spectrum.

Welcoming the enactment of this legislation the Minister said,

“The aim of this Act is unequivocally not to restrict the flow of information, opinions or perspectives feeding into policy making or legislation but rather to bring about significantly greater transparency around this process.”

Key dates for the Regulation of Lobbying Act are:

(i)                 the launch of the web-based register on 1 May 2015 (it will be available to potential registrants from that date to allow them to familiarise themselves with the system) followed by,

 

(ii)               the commencement of the Act on 1 September 2015, and

 

(iii)             the first return required by 21 January 2016.

This will mean that anyone covered by the legislation would be obliged to register and to make a return in respect of lobbying activities carried out in the period 1 September 2015 to 31 December 2015. The first return must be submitted to the Lobbying Regulator, who will be the Standards in Public Office Commission, by 21 January 2016.

ENDS

 

 

Notes to Editor

 

Information Note on the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015

 

  1. What is the objective of the Act?

The key objective in introducing a register of lobbying is to make information available to the public on the identity of those who are communicating with Government and senior civil and public servants on public policy matters.

The Act establishes a web based registration system of lobbying activity which will tell us

“Who is lobbying whom about what?”

 

  1. Who is a lobbyist?

Lobbyists (the “who” in the question) are defined in the Act as the following persons who make or manage or direct the making of any relevant communications:-

  • An Employer i.e. if the person has more than 10 full time employees (and the relevant communications are made on the person’s behalf);
  • Representation bodies i.e. bodies that exist primarily to represent the interest of their members and have 1 or more full time employees (and the relevant communications are made of behalf of any of the members);
  • “Advocacy” type bodies i.e. bodies that exist primarily to further particular issues and have 1 or more full time employees (and the relevant communications are made in furtherance of any of those issues);
  • Professional third party lobbyists i.e those who are paid by a client to lobby on the clients behalf; or
  • Any person lobbying about the development of zoning of land.

  

  1. What are Relevant Communications?

Relevant communications are communications (whether oral or written) made personally (either directly or indirectly) to a designated public official in relation to a relevant matter, unless it is an exempt communication.

 

  1. Who are the lobbied (designated public officials)?

The lobbied (the “whom” in the question) are referred to in the Act as designated public officials and are defined as

  • Ministers and Ministers of State,
  • Members of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann,
  • Members of the European Parliament for constituencies in the State,
  • Members of local authorities,
  • Special Advisers, and
  • Public servants as prescribed (initially this will be Secretaries General and Assistant Secretaries in the Civil Service and Chief Executive Officers and Directors of Services in Local Authorities).

  

  1. What are lobbying activities (relevant matters)?

The relevant matters about which lobbyists are communicating with the lobbied (the “what” in the question) are defined in the Act as communications about

  • The initiation, development or modification of any public policy or programme,
  • The preparation or amendment of legislation, or
  • The award of any grant, loan, or other financial support, contract or other agreement, or of any licence or other authorisation involving public funds etc.

apart from matters relating only to implementation of any such policy, programme, enactment, award, etc. or matters of a technical nature.

So when a lobbyist communicates with one of the lobbied about one of the listed relevant matters then the he or she must register on the lobbying register. 

Once registered, the lobbyist will have to make a return of their lobbying activities 3 times a year (in September, January and May) in respect of the preceding 4 month period.

 

  1. Are there exemptions?

There are a number of exemptions set out in Section 5 of the Act.

If persons are unsure as to whether one or those exemptions applies to their communications, they may seek guidance from the Regulator.

 

  1. What type of information will a lobbyist have to put on the register?

Registration Details

(a)           The person’s name (i.e. the name of the business, corporate body, etc. conducting lobbying activities);

(b)          The  persons business address or if there is no business address the address at which the person normally resides;

(c)           The person’s business or main activities;

(d)          Any e-mail address, telephone number or website address relating to the person’s business or main activities;

(e)           Any registration number issued to the person by the Companies Registration Office; and

(f)           (If a company) the person’s registered office.

 

Return Details

(a)                The names of any public service body and the designated public officials communicated with;

(b)               The subject of the lobbying communications and the results they were intended to secure;

(c)                The extent and type of lobbying activities (while this doesn’t require details of each individual contact, the information supplied must be sufficient to meet the transparency objectives of the Act);

(d)               The name of the person who has primary responsibility for carrying on lobbying activities within the organisation;

(e)                The name of any person who is or was a designated official (e.g. a former Minister, Special Adviser, T.D., Secretary General), who is employed by or providing services to the registered person, and is engaged in lobbying activities; and

(f)                3rd party lobbyists will also have to provide information about their clients similar to the information required under ‘registration details’ above.

  

  1. Who is the Regulator?

The Standards in Public Office Commission is the Regulator. The Commission will oversee the implementation of the register, monitor compliance, provide guidance and assistance and where necessary investigate and pursue breaches of legal requirements in due course.

 

  1. When will the Register come into operation?

The web-based register will be launched on 1 May 2015 (it will be available to potential registrants from that date to allow them to familiarise themselves with the system).  This will be followed by commencement of the Act on 1 September 2015.

This will mean that the Register will come into operation on 1 September 2015.  Anyone covered by the legislation would then be obliged to make a return in respect of lobbying activities carried out in the period 1 September 2015 to 31 December 2015The first such return would need to be submitted to the Regulator by 21 January 2016.