Chartered Institute of Public Relations Response to Proposed Lobbying Transparency (Scotland) Bill About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations 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, it is the largest body of its kind in Europe. 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, through the PR Academy, provides the CIPR Public Affairs Diploma, a professional qualification specific to lobbying.
The CIPR has several regional groups, one of which is the CIPR Scotland Group. The group has over 700 members, as does the largest national sectoral group, CIPR Public Affairs Group. The Public Affairs Group is made up of communications professionals who have regular dealings with Government, or the institutions of Government, in its very widest sense; both were consulted with regards to their opinions and response to the consultation.
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. (The PRCA resigned as a member of UKPAC in December 2011). Each member body in UKPAC (currently APPC and CIPR) has a code of conduct to which its members must adhere and a disciplinary process to be used in the event of any breach of its code. Members of the APPC and CIPR that meet the UKPAC definition of lobbying are required to register.
Introduction â€“ General comments The Consultation Paper: Proposed Lobbying Transparency (Scotland) Bill was put forward by Neil Findlay MSP on 6th July 2012, proposing a statutory requirement for certain individuals and organisations who lobby MSPs, Scottish Ministers or relevant public officials, either on their own account or on behalf of third parties, to record relevant information about their lobbying activity in a published register.
Do you support the general aim of the proposed Bill?
Do you agree that legislation is a necessary and appropriate means of improving lobbying transparency?
The CIPR supports the general aim of the Bill, in line with our support for the general aim of other, similar measures elsewhere in the UK, where the aim is to increase transparency in public affairs activity. However, in this case specific legislation goes to an extent we do not consider necessary or appropriate in two important areas. Firstly, The CIPR would generally favour a UK wide regime that reflected levels of disclosure agreed upon between the UK’s legislatures and assemblies and the institutions of Government, including non-departmental public bodies, which would mean that a person or organisation which seeks to influence policy anywhere in the UK and at any level would be required to register once, and the information would be universally accessible. However, we accept and respect the desire for legislatures in parts of the UK to set their own standards and have responded to the consultation accordingly. Secondly, we reject the need for statutory code of conduct for lobbyists.
Definitions The CIPR believes that the legislation governing a statutory register of lobbyists should focus on a clear definition of lobbying as an activity. The consultation document draws its definition of lobbying from that provided by the UK Public Affairs Council:
“Lobbying means, in a professional capacity, attempting to influence, or advise those who wish to influence, the UK Government, Parliament, the devolved legislatures or administrations, regional or local government or other public bodies on any matter within their competence”
What robust, comprehensive and sufficiently explicit definitions of lobbying and lobbyist can be developed and applied that will ensure all who lobby are captured under the proposals?
The CIPR suggests defining “lobbying” (or “lobbying services”) as activities carried out in a professional capacity, in the course of business or employment, which are designed to influence government or other official policy or to help others to influence government or other official policy.
A lobbyist would therefore be a person who carries out such activity, including the provision of advice and other services which fall short of direct communication with policy makers, whether in a
voluntary or a paid capacity. We believe this approach to the definition would capture “all who lobby” and meet the aim of the bill in providing for greater transparency.
Scope of the register It is intended that the proposed bill will include records of professional lobbyists (both commercial consultants and in-house); representative bodies (trade and professional bodies who lobby on behalf of their members); charities, trade unions and employer groups, professional services (accounting, legal firms and management consultants who provide public affairs and lobbying advice), as well as not-for-profit organisations, NGOs and grassroots advocacy groups.
The proposed bill suggests that thresholds should exist in order to capture lobbyists who are involved in significant amounts of lobbying and to protect small businesses/charities/others who are involved in only slight levels of lobbying.
Who should register on a lobbying register in Scotland? Which organisations should be exempted from registering and why should they be exempted?
The CIPR recommends all lobbyists; those undertaking lobbying services as defined in the above definition should be included on any statutory register if introduced. We welcome the intention to include in-house lobbyists particularly, which we believe makes the approach to the legislation more equitable and less likely to result in an uneven playing field within the lobbying market. It would also ensure that the register captures the greater number of people and organisations engaged in lobbying activities as defined above.
We believe this should be without exemption and without threshold. Thresholds would be difficult to set and would offer an ‘invitation to avoidance’ for those who lobby but are determined not to appear on a register.
Regulation The CIPR does not support any measures which would undermine the existing self-regulatory structure of the lobbying industry. This structure includes the CIPR Code of Conduct.
1) Is it necessary or desirable to develop a Code of Conduct for lobbyists to accompany a lobbying register? If so, what key elements should this code include? 3
No. Lobbyists who are members of professional bodies, such as the CIPR, are regulated by Codes of Conduct. The benefit of a professional regulatory regime enforced by membership bodies is that they are usually (as is the case with the CIPR) supported by professional development products and services and maintained by volunteers currently in practice. The CIPR has a structure of enforcement which includes investigation, hearing of cases by a panel of professionals and lay persons and an appeal process. Anyone, including members of the public, is entitled to make a complaint under the CIPR code.
Are the current arrangements, whereby lobbyists are governed only through selfregulatory schemes, adequate or is a statutory regime required in order to regulate lobbying?
We firmly believe the current arrangements of self-regulation are adequate and the Government should engage with the industry to establish how the Bill might further support them. For example, if a register of lobbyists displayed information to indicate whether or not an individual or organisation was accountable for their professional standards to a recognised and enforced code of conduct, this would promote membership of the bodies which currently uphold and support those standards and have considerable experience in doing so.
The risk of introducing a statutory code of conduct is that it would less rigorous and reflective of the highest standards of professional conduct than the regime of self-regulation. The net effect could be to lower expected standards across the board.
Information to be included in the register The CIPR generally believes that the burden of compliance should be low and that a reasonable level of information should be required for any statutory register.
3) What do you think is the appropriate and necessary information to be disclosed in order to make lobbying transparent and how regularly should entries be updated?
4) Should there be a threshold for inclusion in the lobbying register? If so, what should it be (in terms of time/ resources devoted to lobbying, size of organisation, budget, etc.)?
5) Should it only be contact with MSPs, Ministers and civil servants which should require to be recorded on the register, or should all public officials, including from NDPBâ€™s, be included?
6) Which organisations should be exempted from registering and why should they be exempted?
With regards to what should be included in any register the CIPR believes information should be detailed but not excessive. The name, employer or name of client should all be included on a register, as should a record of meetings held. It should also be required that a person disclose any previous employment within the civil service, ministerial role or any elected capacity. The CIPR would not support disclosure of fees spent on lobbying or any requirement that necessitates the publication of notes taken in meetings.
Contact with all public officials should be included on a register, indeed it should be covered by the definition used in the legislation and there should be no threshold required for inclusion. The CIPR believes that there should be no exemptions; if a person is deemed to be undertaking lobbying activities they should be subject to the register.
A register should be updated regularly enough so that any information is accurate, but not so often that the burden of regulation and monitoring is excessive. The CIPR would recommend updating a statutory register quarterly and retrospectively.
The only potential exemption from disclosure might be for organisation where disclosure might compromise the safety of any individual who meets the definition included in the legislation.
Oversight The bill suggests a number of potential bodies for oversight of the register including The Standards Commission for Scotland, the Public Standards Commissioner, the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) or the Scottish Parliament itself.
Is an independent body required to oversee the register? If so, which organisation should be responsible for administering the register?
The CIPR strongly recommends that an independent body with industry representation should run a Scottish register if it were in place.
How will compliance be policed and what investigative and enforcement powers would the overseeing body require?
The consultation document also outlines the need for enforcement of the rules governing the register through penalties and sanctions as yet undecided for inclusion in the proposed bill. In this regard, the CIPR believes the legislation should prescribe sanctions that are broadly aligned with offences under company law. Also, we would like to see non-compliance enforced by removal from the register, thus ceasing recognition as an established and registered lobbyist. We accept that while this is an attractive idea in terms of providing a level playing field for commercial lobbying, it is not entirely a practical one unless a real time register can be provided that would allow for first-time lobbying (i.e. a current, rather than retrospective register). The oversight for non-compliance would be governed by the independent body charged with responsibility for the register.
How should the administration of a statutory register be paid for? And what is your assessment of the likely financial implications (if any) of the proposed Bill to you or your organisation? What (if any) other significant financial implications are likely to arise
Provided the burdens, both in terms of compliance and cost, are kept low, the lobbying industry should meet the cost of the register. In this regard, because of the positive role lobbying plays in our democracy and the link with freedom of speech, cost should be kept to an affordable minimum. In this, special regard should also be paid to the number of small and micro businesses which provide lobbying services, as well as the number of Freelance lobbyists. It should also be understood that a register with exemptions will be smaller in terms of the number of possible registrants. Since it would be inappropriate for the cost of a register to be met from public funds, the entire burden of administration would fall only on certain parts of the lobbying. A universal register of lobbyists would potentially spread the burden of cost in a more appropriate manner.
Conclusion The CIPR maintains the position that lobbying should be undertaken in an open and transparent manner with requirements that all of our members adhere to the highest standards of professionalism as set in our Code of Conduct.
The CIPR has no objection to the requirements of a statutory register providing that it is effective, practical, and does not interfere with the essential democratic role of lobbyists. It is our conclusion that whilst the idea of statutory registration in itself is not excessive, the proposed statutory register in Scotland â€“ a proposed separate register from the rest of the UK, is undesirable. We also urge the Socttish Government not to undermine the existing regime of self-regulation in favour of statutory codes of conduct. The CIPR continues to work to ensure its members in the public affairs profession operate with the highest standards of professionalism and will continue to enforce our Code of Conduct to ensure that members lobbying in Scotland operate within the confines of professional practice. For more information, contact: Phil Morgan Director of Policy and Communication Chartered Institute of Public Relations 52-53 Russell Square London WC1B 4HP 020 7631 6926 firstname.lastname@example.org