Minister Howlin’s Regulation of Lobbying Act is commenced

Issued 1 September 2015

Minister Brendan Howlin announced that Ireland’s first Register of Lobbying becomes a legal requirement from today, September 1st. The register is being established under the recently enacted Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015. It will provide a simple, web based register of lobbying activity giving transparency on ‘who is contacting whom about what’.

The Standards in Public Office Commission launched the register of lobbying activity in April 2015 (www.lobbying.ie) and provided a three month opportunity for potential registrants to become familiar with the Register. The Register will identify to the public who is communicating with politicians and senior public servants on public policy matters.

From today lobbying activity can be registered on the website. Lobbyists are obliged by law to register any lobbying activity that takes place from today September 1st. Returns of lobbying activity are required every four months, with the first returns being due by January 21st 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, which will be the Standards in Public Office Commission, by21 January 2016.

Minister Howlin said

Extensive communication is the essence of good policy making. The commencement of lobbying regulation is introduced to support the information channels between the political system, the public service, and all sectors of society. Public servants should continue to be open to approaches from the widest range of interests in society. The existence of this register will help to support a more transparent and balanced stakeholder engagement by shining a light on who is talking to whom”.

A review of the Act will be held in 12 months’ time. Following this review the enforcement provisions will come into effect. Minister Howlin also said 

I am aware of the culture change required by all partiesThis will allay concerns about inadvertent non-compliance as those lobbying become familiar with their legal obligations”.

 

Ends

For further information please contact:

Aidan Moore, Standards Commission 01-6395711 or 087 9175186

Standards in Public Office Commission

18 Lower Leeson Street

Dublin 2

Tel: 01 639 5722

E-mail: info@lobbying.ie

Website: www.lobbying.ie

Twitter: @LobbyingIE

 

 Note to Editors:

The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015

The Registration of Lobbying Act 2015 was signed by President Michael D Higgins on 11 March 2015. The purpose of this Act is to establish a web based register of lobbying activity and deliver appropriate transparency on “who is contacting whom about what”.

The key objective of the 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?”

Therefore, when a lobbyist communicates with one of the lobbied about a relevant matter, they must register on the lobbying register.  Once registered, the lobbyist will have to make a return of their lobbying activities 3 times a year (at the end of April, August and December).

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 and equivalent grades 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. Ms Sherry Perreault of the Standards Commission is the Head of Lobbying Regulation. 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 was launched on 1 May 2015 (and was available to potential registrants from that date to allow them to familiarise themselves with the system).  This Act is commenced today, 1 September 2015.

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