If you communicate with government officials on behalf of clients you may be deemed to be a consultant lobbyist and need to register as such. The rules differ depending on whether you are communicating with UK government ministers and senior civil servants and/or Scottish MSPs, Scottish government ministers, special advisors and the Scottish government’s permanent secretary.
UK Register of Consultant Lobbyists
Members and member firms who communicate with UK government ministers and senior civil servants (see below) on behalf of their clients may be deemed to be ‘consultant lobbyists’ under the terms of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act. If so they must register with the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists (ORCL), pay a fee and submit quarterly returns or be liable for civil or criminal penalties.
Members and member firms may come within the scope of the UK legislation if:
- In the course of business and in return for payment, they communicate directly and personally with a UK government minister or permanent secretary (or an equally senior civil servant such as the Chief Medical Officer) with regard to any function, policy or legislation of the UK government on behalf of a client; AND
- They are registered for VAT.
The following exemptions apply:
- If the lobbying is carried out on a ‘pro-bono’ basis
- If the provider is not registered for VAT
- If an individual lobbies on behalf of their employer
- If the activity is classified as ‘incidental’ to an individual’s or organisation’s general activity or the main function of the firm/individual is not lobbying
- If the lobbying is performed by an international organisation and/or by government officials/employees of foreign governments
- If undertaken by a trade or membership organisations (so ICAEW as a whole is exempt but individual members or member firms may not be)
- If undertaken by a charity – provided the charity does not receive payment for the lobbying activity.
What should members do?
If members or member firms are in any doubt as to whether they should register they are advised to contact the Registrar as follows:
- ORCL Enquiry Line via email email@example.com or by telephone +44 (0)20 7271 8827
Members are advised that
- The ORCL reviews minister’s diaries and other sources to check if anyone has been lobbying without registering.
- The current Registrar has indicated that he will consider whether an activity counts as lobbying on a case by case basis, irrespective of the fact that the ‘normal’ activity of an ICAEW member or member firm is not that of a lobbyist.
- Registration should take place before the activity is undertaken
- The current Registrar has also stated that ICAEW’s Code of Ethics does not count as a ‘relevant‘ code of conduct for inclusion on the register.
The Lobbying (Scotland) Act 2016
- The Lobbying (Scotland) Act 2016 came into force on 12 March 2018. It creates a lobbying register and covers any communication made orally or face to face with MSPs, Scottish government ministers, special advisers and the Scottish government’s permanent secretary. It does not matter where the communication took place nor the formality or informality of the occasion but the lobbying must be paid for and must be used to inform or influence decisions.
- The Lobbying Register is online at lobbying.scot
- ICAEW’s Technical Release TECH 01/17BL Registration of Consultant Lobbyists – Implications for member firms – for more details on the UK legislation.
- Guidance issued by the ORCL
- The Scottish Parliament