Written evidence from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (PGG05)
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee
How should lobbying activity be regulated? How far does the Lobbying Act provide an effective statutory basis for the regulation of lobbying? Are the scope and remit of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists adequate? Are key aspects of lobbying omitted and, if so, how can they be addressed?
The CIPR was critical of the Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act (2014) when it was introduced as not fit for purpose due to its narrow scope. The Act requires only a small proportion of the UK's lobbyists to register. This results in the public unable to access meaningful and accurate information about lobbying, as was the intention of the Act.
The register only captures limited lobbying activity (oral, written or electronic communications sent personally to a Minister or Permanent Secretary) conducted by consultant lobbyists. Lobbyists working in-house for businesses, charities or other organisations are not required to register.
The public are calling for greater scrutiny. Research published by the CIPR, and conducted prior to the revelations surrounding Greensill, show two-thirds (67%) of UK adults feel the public should know more about lobbyists seeking to influence MPs and Ministers. Full details of the research are included below.
It is the CIPR’s view that the register should be expanded to capture all lobbying activity that includes oral, written or electronic communications of Ministers, MPs, Peers, Regional Mayors, Senior Civil Servants, and special advisers with the objective of influencing, and in relation to Government or Parliamentary functions, regardless of who is undertaking it. In summary, it should be a register of lobbying, rather than a register of lobbyists. This means the lobbying activities of consultants, businesses, charities, trade unions, and think tanks will require registration.
As the practicalities of this are explored, it is our view that technological and digital solutions should be explored to minimise any administrative burden on the registration of lobbying activity or the publication of diaries.
How are potential conflicts of interest of current and former Ministers, Special Advisors and Officials identified and managed and how effective is this? Are there gaps in the current system?
The CIPR are firm in our view that serving legislators should not be able to take on paid political consultancy work. The CIPR encourages any organisation employing elected officials – whether as board members of major organisations or trustees of charities – to be transparent about the role of those elected officials and their activities undertaken during their time of employment.
The CIPR would welcome a review into the length of time between Ministers leaving office and taking up employment as paid lobbyists.
This survey was commissioned by the CIPR and conducted by Opinium between March 9-12, 2021. Over 2000 members of the public were surveyed. The full survey reveals:
 The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK with 9,500 members involved in all aspects of public relations. The CIPR advances the public relations profession in the UK by making its members accountable through a code of conduct, developing best practice, representing its Members, and raising standards through professional development. The CIPR provides the CIPR Public Affairs Diploma, a professional qualification specific to lobbying.
The CIPR, along with the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), founded the UK Public Affairs Council (UKPAC) after a recommendation from the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee for a public register of lobbyists. Following the closure of UKPAC, the CIPR launched the UK Lobbying Register (UKLR), a universal voluntary lobbying register available to all professionals engaged in lobbying within the UK.
The UKLR, which is free of charge to search and register, provides the public with a channel to complain about the conduct of a registered lobbyist.
All lobbyists – agency, in-house or freelance – are welcome to join. It is a requirement of CIPR membership for any members who lobby to join. All registrants are bound by a code of conduct, either the CIPR's or another relevant and effective code.
The CIPR has several sectoral groups, one of which is the CIPR Public Affairs Group. The group has over 700 members and is made up of communications professionals who have regular dealings with Government, or the institutions of Government, in its very widest sense.