The Lobbying Bill

27 September 2013

On the 4 July this blog examined the UK Government’s plans for creating a register of lobbyists and the uncertainty whether this would be extended to the Assembly. The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14  was published by the UK Government on 17 July 2013.

The Bill makes provision in three areas:

  • It establishes a register of professional lobbyists and a Registrar of lobbyists to supervise and enforce the registration requirements.
  • It changes the legal requirements for people or organisations who campaign in relation to elections but are not standing as candidates or a registered political party.
  • It changes the legal requirements in relation to trade unions’ obligations to keep their list of members up to date.

Part 1 of the Bill extends to the whole United Kingdom. The requirement to register applies to all consultant lobbyists engaged in lobbying UK Government Ministers and Permanent Secretaries, regardless of where the lobbying takes place or where the consultant lobbyist is based.

However, Part 1 does not make any provision in relation to those who lobby the Devolved Administrations and Legislatures. It deals only with reserved matters and does not require the consent of the devolved legislatures. The Assembly, therefore, will not be required to have register of lobbyists.

Part 2 of the Bill extends to the whole of the United Kingdom, deals only with reserved matters and does not need the consent of the devolved legislatures. Certain amendments also extend to Gibraltar.

The provisions on Trade Unions’ registers of members which are inserted into TULRCA by Part 3 will extend to England and Wales and to Scotland but not to Northern Ireland, where it is a devolved matter.

The Bill received its Second Reading on 3 September 2013 and was scrutinised by a Committee of the Whole House on the 9,10 and 11 September. The House of Commons Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform has been critical of the lack of pre-legislative scrutiny and called on the UK Government to withdraw the Bill.

A range of bodies, including the Electoral Commission and the WCVA, have concerns about Part 2 of the Bill and its impact on third sector bodies in Wales. The WCVA stated:

“Part 2 of the bill does directly affect devolved administrations, both in terms of (1) campaigning during Westminster election periods; and (2) campaigning during devolved and EU election periods.

This means that the involvement of civil society in elections to the devolved administrations will potentially be seriously curtailed by a bill passed in Westminster, with little or no consultation with those administrations. It is very possible that more Welsh organisations will have to register with the Electoral Commission, and account for their spending, including events, policy manifestos and the staff time spent on these.”

The Bill goes to Report Stage on 8 October 2013. The UK Government has undertaken to introduce some amendments to address concerns about Part 2, after consultation with the third sector and Electoral Commission.

Further information can be seen in this Research Service paper.

Article written by Alys Thomas.