UKPAC wants to see a high level of public trust in Government and Parliament and believes that trust would be enhanced if there were greater transparency about the identity and activities of those who are employed as lobbyists to inform and influence decision taking within Government and Parliament.
We therefore support the present Government’s commitment to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists; and our strategic objective is that UKPAC, in its existing or modified form, should eventually be chosen to be the appropriate non-statutory body to deliver a registration scheme, covering all professional lobbyists and linked to effective schemes of self-regulation.
There was a successful re-launch of the UKPAC register in February 2012. The UKPAC register is the only online, searchable and regularly updated register covering agencies, individuals and clients. There has been an increase in registrants (individuals) each quarter.
Currently the register details 362 organisations that offer lobby services or who employ CIPR members in an in-house capacity. The list includes those employed by public and regulatory bodies; (British Library, ASA, The Electoral Commission, Cheshire Fire and Rescue, Transport for London, Cardiff University and several other universities, the Financial Ombudsman Service and the PCC); trade groups (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Airport Operators Association, the BMA, The Bar Council and Law Society, the IoD and the Institute of Chartered Accountants); Charities (Bowel Cancer UK Age Scotland, British Humanist Association, Refugee Action); and legal practices.
A total of 1,467 individuals now appear as employees of lobby firms, organisations such as those listed above or as self-employed “freelancers”. A search of those listed as clients of lobby firms and “freelancers” lists 2,160 clients. The search tool allows the register to be interrogated by organisation, client or named individual. *
Our governance arrangements remain robust based on a mix of industry and independent members of the Council with an independent majority. A new Executive Secretary has been appointed and has addressed outstanding issues regarding UKPAC’s financial management and reporting, our relationship with our IT provider and website host, our registration with Companies House and our links to Cabinet Office.
In addition to the investment in a robust and fully functioning web-based register, UKPAC’s definitions of lobbying and lobbyists are regularly referred to in Government consultations and communications, although when we move to a statutory registration scheme it is very likely they will not be fit for purpose. UKPAC is aware that the APPC, CIPR and PRCA are currently working on definitions which might be more appropriate for a statutory regime. UKPAC believes it has a role in assisting the three organisations in commenting on whether the new definitions present any problems for a registrar and would welcome engagement on that basis.
UKPAC is the only body in existence which combines a strong independent element with the understanding of the sector that comes through the involvement of senior, experienced high level individuals from the public affairs industry. As such it is the one non-statutory body with operational experience and a governance model with the potential to deliver a register required by statute. This is based on the understanding governance arrangements would need to remain flexible to accommodate a broader register and a wider range of stakeholders.
A number of the organisations mentioned in the second section of this document appear in the UKPAC register by virtue of staff members in CIPR membership. Many of these companies and public bodies are unlikely to be willing to join membership bodies anchored in PR and public affairs work. UKPAC provides a “neutral” environment in which these and other entities could appropriately declare their lobbying activity.
UKPAC’s Guiding Principles of Conduct provide a valuable basis for ethical standards that could be applied across the industry. The Guiding Principles are consistent in form with the principles or “outcome-based” regulation that exists in the legal, financial and other sectors. The Guiding Principles provide a basis for discussion on how self-regulation by existing and additional bodies might underpin a register – addressing likely calls from some for a new statutory regulator.
We are working on a practically based assumption that it will be at least three years before a statutory register is introduced. We expect the Government to be open to the case for a limited statutory regime based on registration, transparency, broad coverage and guiding principles with a Registrar but without a new regulator of standards. We envisage a framework where transparency and standards of conduct are driven in equal part by those who are lobbied – Ministers, parliamentarians and the Civil and Public servants who are subject to various Codes of Conduct and other rules of engagement. This timeframe and approach clearly depends on political developments and the impact of any “events” related to lobbying and standards in public life more generally.
But it will also rely, critically on the extent to which those who lobby are able to demonstrate that this is a mature sector where non-statutory “delivery” can work in the interests of all. An established, affordable, growing UKPAC register is key to any prospect of Government readiness to forgo a more costly state-managed regime.
Evidence in the UK, Canada and elsewhere suggests that statutory schemes, particularly when delivered by public agencies carry very significant cost. The 2010-11 Report of the Office of the Commissioner for Lobbying in Canada reported an organisation with 28 full time staff and an annual budget of $4.5million. In the UK the Architects Registration Board, which has a dual role as Registrar and regulator, had 22 staff, a board of 15 and annual expenditure of £3million.
UK Government pronouncements make clear there is no prospect of any UK Lobby Register scheme working on a less than full cost recovery basis. Accordingly, it seems clear that investment in UKPAC now to establish it as the likely registrar under any statutory scheme could have significant savings for companies and individuals relative to acceptance now of whatever is handed down from Westminster.
At the same time the development of a pre-existing register offers the prospect of implementation of any statutory requirement and the benefits of additional transparency at a far faster pace than would otherwise be possible.
UKPAC believe there are four key elements to be pursued if it is to evolve to meet the needs and wishes of Government and industry and other stakeholders:
• Maintaining the quality and operational capability of the existing register;
• Addressing questions over our coverage and financial viability;
• Developing a communications strategy that builds understanding of our potential as the long term answer;
• Leveraging existing assets.
UKPAC is committed to building on the robust register we have in place and working towards universality. A decision in principle has already been taken to open the Register to individuals and entities beyond CIPR and APPC membership. The delay in the introduction of a statutory register is a perfect opportunity for those who lobby to demonstrate their willingness to be transparent and open through a model that has already shown its effectiveness and which can be built on.
In meeting our objective, UKPAC believes it needs to undertake a number of activities:
1. Secure growth – we want an UKPAC Register at end 2013 that has grown in terms of registered entities and individuals, with growth happening through new external registrants alongside any incremental growth through higher membership numbers at APPC and CIPR.
2. Build diversity – focusing in particular on securing registration by leading charities and trade bodies on an individual or collective basis.
3. Develop a stronger voice - through a communications strategy that focuses on the benefits of registration in advance of statutory requirements; with a view to reducing the risk of slow, costly, burdensome or poorly informed intervention.
4. Build understanding of non-statutory models - UKPAC will use existing legislation and models in the UK and elsewhere to explain the benefits to all of a model that delivers important public services required by statute but by non-statutory bodies as happens with forms of professional registration, dispute resolution and consumer protection.
5. Enhance our financial viability: (i)through fees – seeking an increase in funding commensurate with the growth in the number of registrants, based on a fees model for non- members of APPC or CIPR (ii) through third parties - exploring and if possible securing sponsorship or/and advertising to cover policy, communications, web and related costs.
6. Support those who deliver effective systems of self-regulation - UKPAC will play a role in the public debate when the issues of statutory registration extend to ones about ethical standards, exploring how independent registration arrangements can be paralleled to industry-based self-regulatory arrangements that promote high ethical standards in the industry.
5 December 2012
*Information taken from the UKPAC Register for period 1 June 2012 - 31 August 2012.