Minister Howlin publishes policy paper on Regulation of Lobbying
Mr. Brendan Howlin, T.D., Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has today published a policy paper on the ‘Regulation of Lobbying’. Welcoming the publication Minister Howlin stated “This Government wants to bring greater openness and transparency to the important process of interaction between the political and administrative systems and all interests who seek to influence policy and legislative proposals and decision-making.
I welcome the large response to the public consultation which has helped inform this paper. Furthermore, I look forward to an open and engaged debate on the role and regulation of lobbying at the seminar my Department is hosting tomorrow. The debate as well as the policy paper will feed into and inform the development of legislation.
Lobbying has a very important role to play in helping to ensure that all perspectives, assessments and opinions are presented and available to inform decision-making in key areas of public policy. There is however a need to bring greater transparency and openness to lobbying activity and shed light on the key question “who is lobbying whom on what”.”
The paper has been developed in response to the commitment contained in the Programme for Government as well as the Public Service Reform Plan 2011 to introduce a regulatory system for lobbying. It also comprises an important step in implementing the recommendations contained in the report of the Mahon Tribunal relating to the regulation of lobbying.
The policy paper has been developed on the basis of:-
- a review of regulatory regimes for lobbying operating in other jurisdictions
- international assessments and research on lobbying regulation
- the content of a number of Private Members Bills and draft legislative proposals on lobbying regulation made since 1999
and submissions from over sixty contributors received in response to a public consultation process carried out earlier this year, as well as further engagement with some of the groups and organisations that made submissions
This extensive process of research and consultation has helped to highlight important issues relating to options for the design, structure and implementation of an effective regulatory system for lobbying in Ireland as set out in the policy paper.
The Minister stressed that the policy proposals are designed to avoid having any adverse impact on normal citizen engagement with the political or administrative system and the fundamental right of any individual to make representations on any issue of interest to them to their local political representatives.
Notes for Editors
1. In summary, the policy paper recommends that a regulatory system should have:-
· A definition of lobbying that should encompass any communication, or the planning or organisation of any communication, with designated public officials or officeholders on specific policy, legislative matters or prospective decisions, by remunerated individuals.
· Disclosure requirements that must be proportionate and informative but will not generate an excessive volume of information which would overwhelm the regulatory system or create a reporting burden that would deter registration.
· A register that should be web-based, publically available, easy to use, review and update. Such a register will be as low-cost as possible.
· An oversight body to manage and oversee the register.
· Sanctions that should be clear, enforceable and proportionate.
· A code of conduct that should be developed for registrants by the oversight body, after it is established.
· A cooling-off period for public office holders as contained in the Programme for Government and recommended in the Mahon Tribunal Report.
· A legislative review no later than 18 months after the regulation comes into force and every 5 years thereafter.
2. Following the publication of the policy proposals, a public seminar on the regulation of lobbying in Ireland will be hosted by the Department on 5 July 2012 for those bodies and individuals that responded to the public consultation earlier this year.
This is intended to provide the opportunity to discuss these proposals and options for the proposed regulatory system and to debate key issues that emerged from the consultation process. Further to this, preparation of an Outline Scheme of a Lobbying Bill has commenced and it is planned that the bill be published in early 2013.