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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 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 5:30 pm, 13th January 2014

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, has moved an amendment which would delete paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 and, as such, remove the explicit exemption from the requirement to register for members of staff and officials of sovereign powers and international organisations.

As the noble and learned Lord very fairly explained in moving his amendment, we have been in correspondence over the past week on this matter. Theusb Government believe that, by establishing a statutory register of consultant lobbyists, this part of the Bill aims to make clear whose interests are represented by consultant lobbyists when they meet Ministers and Permanent Secretaries. It is not our intention that the register should capture international or diplomatic communications by representatives of foreign Governments or authorities or of international organisations. Communications made by representatives of foreign Governments or authorities will not be captured by the definition of consultant lobbying, as the noble and learned Lord has said, as they will not meet the criteria outlined in Clause 2 and the associated schedule. Those include, among other things, that lobbying must be done,

“in the course of a business and in return for payment”,

and,

“on behalf of another person”.

However, out of an abundance of caution, the Bill also includes a specific exemption in paragraph 3 that explicitly excludes officials or members of staff of sovereign powers and international organisations from the requirement to register in respect of their communications to UK Ministers and Permanent Secretaries.

Noble Lords will recall that Schedule 1 provides a number of explicit exemptions that are designed to provide absolute clarity regarding the application of Part 1 provisions. Those exemptions include one specifically excluding parliamentarians from the scope of the register. Although the Government have been absolutely clear that communications made by parliamentarians to the Government will not be captured by the Clause 2 provision, I understand that, none the less, noble Lords and Members of the other place have been particularly grateful for the extra clarity and reiteration provided by paragraph 4. Paragraph 3 is intended to provide equivalent clarity to sovereign powers and international organisations and the Government are not persuaded that it should be removed.

The noble and learned Lord asked specific questions regarding Taiwan. I am sure that he and perhaps other Members of your Lordships’ House would agree that the Report stage of the transparency Bill is perhaps not the most appropriate forum in which to discuss matters of international diplomacy. Indeed, if the noble and learned Lord wishes to pursue the issue, he may wish to take it up with my colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In these circumstances, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.