Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill — Report (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:25 pm on 13th January 2014.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lords Spokesperson (Attorney General's Office), The Advocate-General for Scotland, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Lords Spokesperson (Scotland Office), Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 5:25 pm, 13th January 2014

My Lords, the amendments in this group are a number of technical amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire. It may assist the House if I briefly go through them and explain their purpose.

Amendments 4, 5 and 6 clarify, and provide greater consistency to, terminology used in relation to the recipients of the lobbying communications and the communications themselves. The minor amendment, Amendment 6, which clarifies the term “Minister of the Crown”, does not, in the context of the Bill, capture the corporate bodies of the Defence Council and the Board of Trade. As Clause 2 makes clear, the communications that the register is intended to capture are those that are,

“made personally to a Minister of the Crown or permanent secretary”.

The definition in the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975 includes the Defence Council and the Board of Trade. Both these entities, however, are corporate bodies with which it is not possible to make personal communications. As such, these amendments remove those bodies from the definition and, in doing so, provide further clarity regarding the communications that fall within the scope of consultant lobbying.

Amendment 8 clarifies the position in relation to employees who make lobbying communications as a part of their employment. Specifically, the amendment provides that employees will not be considered as carrying on,

“the business of consultant lobbying”,

if they make lobbying communications as an employee in the course of a business carried on by their employer. The amendment therefore clarifies that in-house lobbyists are not captured by the Part 1 provisions, and that it is a consultant lobbying firm rather than its employees that are required to register in respect of any lobbying activity. As Ministers have made clear—indeed, as we have already debated—the register is designed to address the problem that it is not always clear whose interests are represented by consultant lobbyists.

Amendment 9 provides, first, that where an individual makes a communication in the course of the business of another, then both the individual and that other business or person make that communication. As such, the amendment ensures that the client on whose behalf consultant lobbying communications are made is always declared on the register even if that communication is undertaken by a subcontractor that the consultant lobbying firm has engaged. The amendment also provides that if the individual happens to be an employee—as opposed to a contractor, for example—then the employee is not to be regarded as making the communication on behalf of their employer but, rather, only on behalf of their employer’s client, reflecting the fact that in-house lobbyists and employees of consultant lobbying firms are not required to register.

Amendment 10 is intended to remove any ambiguity as to the maximum period of a reappointment term of the registrar, which is three years. An individual may be reappointed twice, and the maximum period for each of those terms is three years.

Amendments 18, 20 and 21 ensure consistency in the language used in the provisions relating to the cancellation of an information notice or the variation or cancellation of a penalty notice. By ensuring consistency of terminology, these amendments will further clarify the detail of the provisions relating to the cancellation and/or variation of these notices and ensure consistency with approaches to such matters in other legislation.

Amendment 19 clarifies that any individual, not just employees, can commit the offence of carrying on the business of consultant lobbying while unregistered if they and/or their organisation are unregistered. The amendment will remove any ambiguity as to whether the provisions apply to individuals who undertake consultant lobbying in the course of a business but are not employees of that consultant lobbying business—for example, contractors. It will therefore ensure that the application of the provisions in this respect is absolutely clear.

Amendment 24 has been tabled to clarify that the charges associated with registration will be set to ensure that the sums received offset the total costs of the registrar’s activities. Treasury guidance requires that if a charging regime recoups costs other than those directly associated with the service provided—in this instance, the keeping of the register—then the position should be made explicitly clear to Parliament. This amendment reiterates that the charges provided for in Clause 22 will be set to recover the total cost of the registrar’s activities, including those that are not directly connected with the keeping of the register, such as enforcement activity.

Amendment 25 removes drafting in relation to the netting-off of monies from the Consolidated Fund for the funding of the registrar. Such funding will instead be arranged administratively between the Cabinet Office and the Treasury.

Amendment 27 is tabled to fulfil the Government’s commitment to implement the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in relation to Part 1. The Government, as ever, are grateful to the committee for its thoughtful consideration of the delegated powers in Part 1 and have accepted its recommendations in relation to this part in their entirety. The amendment alters the part to require that regulations under Clause 4(5) or Clause 5(4), the first regulations to be made under Clauses 11(3) and 17(3), and any regulation which amends or modifies the provisions of the part, must be made by the affirmative procedure. As a result, Parliament will be provided with the opportunity to undertake detailed scrutiny of any regulations made under the powers in these clauses. Again, I express thanks to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its detailed report on this part of the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment 4 agreed.

Amendments 5 and 6

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

5: Clause 2, page 2, line 19, leave out “the communication” and insert “it”

6: Clause 2, page 2, leave out lines 24 and 25 and insert—

““Minister of the Crown” means the holder of an office in the government, and includes the Treasury;”

Amendments 5 and 6 agreed.

Schedule 1: Carrying on the business of consultant lobbying

Amendment 7

Moved by Lord Hardie

7: Schedule 1, page 53, line 1, leave out paragraph 3