Written evidence from The Good Lobbying Campaign (PGG15)
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee
Propriety of governance in light of Greensill inquiry
- The Good Lobbying Campaign is a newly formed group of experienced professional lobbyists committed to promoting openness and transparency in lobbying and the important role that it plays in the policy, political and democratic process.
- We share a commitment to the highest ethical standards and best practice in lobbying, and a desire to continuously enhance standards across our profession.
- We believe that lobbying, conducted ethically and transparently, is an essential part of our democracy.
- We will limit our response to the question posed in the call for evidence about the regulation of Lobbying and the scope and remit of ORCL.
- About The Good Lobbying Campaign
- We have all built and developed successful careers as consultant and in-house lobbyists. We bring in-depth understanding and expertise of how the current system of industry self-regulation has developed and how the current regulatory system was conceived and implemented.
- We have been at the forefront of the debate both within our profession, in public and as leaders of our self-regulatory and trade bodies for over 20 years. We have come together to help improve, shape and inform future lobbying regulation.
Questions posed by PACAC in the call for evidence
● 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?
- Context of Lobbying regulation and self regulation in the UK
- In 1995 and in response to a lobbying scandal, a number of leading lobbyists came together concerned about the variable culture and practice of lobbying which at this time was an unregulated profession. The group of founding members formed the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC). Over the next 23 years the APPC built and developed a robust and effective system of self-regulation. An independently enforced code of conduct, a register of practitioners and their clients and importantly a culture of compliance enforced through regular training and accreditation. The APPC membership grew to include a high proportion of consultancies offering lobbying services to clients.
- Many members of the APPC also provided public relations services and in 2018 a majority of APPC members voted to merge the APPC with the PRCA, the world’s largest trade association for the PR and communications industry. Some former APPC members are members of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), but there is currently no specialist body wholly focused on promoting transparency, ethics and compliance for professional lobbyists in the UK.
- Lobbying is legitimate and necessary
- It is important to acknowledge that lobbying is legitimate and necessary for the creation of workable policy and good Government. We would recommend that the committee recognise in its report the valuable contribution that external organisations make to the development, implementation and evaluation of policy.
- Being clear what ‘good lobbying’ looks like is important. We believe that there should be a far greater focus from policy makers on the importance and value of lobbying. There needs to be a better understanding of what good lobbying looks like and how to lobby ethically and transparently. The Good Lobbying Campaign is well placed to advise PACAC on what is needed and what works.
- The role and remit of ORCL is too narrow
- The industry has long argued that the remit of ORCL is far too narrow. That by only covering consultant lobbyists and their interactions with Ministers and Permanent Secretaries the
- majority of lobbyists and lobbying is excluded. It is clear from the issues highlighted by the Greensill affair that it is now time to reconsider who is covered by ORCL.
- The rationale for the narrow scope for ORCL was to increase transparency around those consultancies working for multiple clients. The focus going forward needs to be around how to increase lobbying transparency of lobbying more widely.
- During the passage of the legislation in 2013/14, the then three industry bodies proposed a much wider definition (This is set out in Appendix 1 below. We would recommend that the Government consider introducing legislation to expand the definition of who is required to register their lobbying activity.
- ORCL should be expanded
- ORCL was established to capture a very small number of lobbyists and their interactions with a small number of policy makers. The lesson of Greensill is that transparency demands that the coverage of the ORCL register should be expanded beyond its current scope of consultant lobbyists to include all in-house lobbyists as well. In addition, it should cover not just lobbying Ministers and Permanent Secretaries, as at present, but also Special Advisers and senior civil servants.
- We believe that the vast majority of lobbyists want to protect their businesses and reputation by being wholly transparent about their interactions with the Government. The current limited requirements of ORCL do not facilitate businesses to declare more than the statutory minimum. Which works against increased transparency.
- We think that it would be possible to develop and build a culture of transparency, with external interests and Government Departments working together to ensure that lobbying activity is more recorded. The committee should recommend more accurate recording and more timely publication by Government departments of meetings with lobbyists and the subjects discussed would provide the necessary transparency. There would be no merit in duplicating this by insisting or suggesting that those on the register also detail the subjects discussed.
- ORCL should maintain a code of conduct
- We believe that ORCL should have a role in establishing and enforcing a best-in-class framework code of conduct that clearly sets out how to engage with policy makers in an ethical and transparent way.
- At present, it is not possible for any consultancy practitioner/agency to sign up to a best-in-class, independent code, such as the Code of Conduct originally created by the APPC, without incurring a cost. For example membership of a trade association that holds a relevant code of conduct. We believe this creates a barrier to entry for many practitioners/agencies who are eager to sign up to an independent code, but who do not want to join a trade association or who cannot afford to pay the often very substantial cost of joining.
- The content of any code is vital and ORCL can have an important role in setting out a framework for what a Gold Standard would look like. It makes sense to have a single code of conduct which all lobbyists can sign up to and comply with.
- Enforcement of a Code
- Of course, a code of conduct is largely powerless unless it is properly enforced. ORCL currently does not have the power, as set by the legislation, to either establish or enforce a code of conduct.
- As a group, we would welcome the development of a Code of Conduct that is maintained and enforced by a truly independent body and which is either directly or indirectly linked to ORCL.
- We believe that enforcement should be independent of any party suspected to be in breach, and independent of any conflict of interest, in order to give confidence in the compliance and enforcement process.
- By having a code and enforcement processes that are run by or endorsed by ORCL - and effectively independent - would work to increase lobbying transparency and code compliance. This would in turn enhance business, government and public trust in the profession.
- For any professional trade body or other organisation that currently holds a code of conduct we would welcome and like to see greater transparency around enforcement of that code. There needs to be a greater onus on any organisation that holds a code to undertake regular reporting around enforcement and compliance of the code; for example, on data including the number of complaints received, number of complaints actioned, process those complaints have gone through (e.g. through internal complaints processes or external, independent complaints processes etc). Developments in technology also mean that reporting does not need to be onerous or time consuming in order to complete.
- We believe that ORCL could play a greater role in setting standards and requirements for independent and robust enforcement of its approved codes of conduct.
- Signing up to the register should incur minimal cost.
- We would note that the current registration fee can act as a barrier entry to smaller organisations, and we would suggest that the fee be replaced by a graduated fee, linked to either the number of employees or turnover to allow for greater numbers of organisations to register. Cost should not be a barrier to transparency and openness.
- There are many international examples of good practice.
- Westminster is one of the few major Western democracies that does not have lobbying legislation which works to increase transparency. In Canada, Australia, the EU and Holyrood there are examples of good lobbying regulation and registration which provides lobbyists with a ‘license to operate’, is independent and accessible.
- The Good Lobbying Campaign believe it is time for the UK Government to listen to the lobbying industry about what works and to fundamentally increase the scope and remit of the existing statutory register to increase and encourage transparency and openness - not diminish it.
The Good Lobbying Campaign inaugural members:
CEO Devo Connect
Founding member APPC
Former Chair, APPC
Independent Public Affairs Consultant
Former Managing Director of Westminster Strategy and Vice Chair Europe, Edelman
Founding member of APPC
Twice Chair of the APPC
Founder, Inflect Partners
Former Chair PRCA Public Affairs Group
Former Vice Chair APPC
CEO, Railway Industries Association
Former Chair PRCA Public Affairs Group
Former Vice Chair APPC
Director, GK Strategy
Former Co-Chair and current member PRCA Public Affairs Board
Founder, Macduff Consulting
Former Chair APPC
Managing Director, Riverside Communications
Former Member APPC management committee
Director, HealthComms Consulting
The Draft Joint PRCA, CIPR, APPC Definition
Proposed in 2013 during the passage of the Transparency of Lobbying, non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill
“Lobbying services” means activities which are carried out in a professional capacity, in the course of a business or employment and which are designed:
● to inform or influence the Institutions of Government
● to advise others how to inform or influence the Institutions of Government
A person or organisation carrying out the following “lobbying services” must be registered after:
● making any oral or written communication designed to influence or inform any member of any Institution of Government, their advisers or officials, with regard to the development, formulation, modification, or adoption of any legislative measure; the development, formulation, modification, or adoption of any rule, regulation, order, policy, or position; the administration or execution of any government or public programme or policy, including the negotiation, award, or administration of a contract, grant, loan, permit, or licence; or any other official act or decision.
● through the provision of lobbying services, assisting or advising in the activity specified above
Designed – planned or formed with the intention of effecting a specific outcome or range of specific outcomes
Institutions of Government – Including but not limited to Her Majesty’s Government, including non-departmental and other statutory government and public bodies wherever constituted including police authorities, the House of Commons and the House of Lords and Local Authorities and the structures of regional Government in England.
The above approach requires careful consideration of relevant exceptions which should be raised with the government as requiring further consultation. We believe that the following areas should either be exempt or be subject to further consultation by the government in establishing how lobbying should be defined.
The following should be exempt:
A person or organisation carrying out the following activities are not carrying out “lobbying services” and are therefore not to be included in a register of lobbyists:
● a public official acting in the public official’s official capacity
● an elected representative (i.e. a member of the House of Commons, an elected member of a local authority, a Police and Crime Commissioner) acting in accordance with the duties of their office
● a representative of a media organisation if the purpose of the communication is gathering and disseminating news and information to the public
● the distribution of a speech, article, publication or other material to the public, or through print, broadcast or digital media
● a request for a meeting, a request for the status of an action, or any other similar administrative request, if the request does not include an attempt to influence a Member of House of Commons, a Member of the House of Lords or a civil servant
● information required by subpoena, civil investigative demand, or otherwise compelled by statute, regulation, or other action of Parliament or an agency, including any communication compelled by a UK Government contract, grant, loan, permit, or license
● communication made to an official in an agency with regard to
○ A judicial proceeding or a criminal or civil law enforcement inquiry, investigation, or proceeding; or
○ a filing or proceeding that the Government is specifically required by statute or regulation to maintain or conduct on a confidential basis,
○ if that agency is charged with responsibility for such proceeding, inquiry, investigation, or filing
○ a written comment filed in the course of a public proceeding or any other communication that is made on the record in a public proceeding
○ a petition for agency action made in writing and required to be a matter of public record pursuant to established agency procedures
○ made on behalf of an individual with regard to that individual’s benefits, employment, or other personal matters involving only that individual, except that this clause does not apply to any communication with a Member of House of Commons, a Member of the House of Lords or a civil servant (other than the individual’s elected Members or employees who work under such Members’ direct supervision), with respect to the formulation, modification, or adoption of private legislation for the relief of that individual
The following areas should be subject to further consultation by the government.
● How to deal with testimony given before a committee, subcommittee, or task force of Parliament, or submitted for inclusion in the public record of a hearing conducted by such committee, subcommittee, or task force
● How to deal with information provided in writing in response to an oral or written request by a Member of House of Commons, a Member of the House of Lords or a civil servant for specific information or a general consultation
● How to deal with representations made on behalf of a government of a foreign country or a foreign political party