The Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) supports the general aim of ensuring that lobbying is made as open and transparent as possible. The APPC supports in principle, the introduction of a statutory register, although it is of the view that openness and transparency concerning who is lobbying whom and about what issues could be more easily achieved by other means. This information already exists within the official diaries of Ministers, Civil Servants and Members of Parliament. Making the relevant sections of or entries in these diaries publicly available would be the simplest and most cost effective means of ensuring greater openness and transparency.

APPC believes that a register of lobbying should be developed, as far as possible, in a collaborative manner between all interested parties and in accordance with the founding principles of the Parliament itself. International models would be useful reference points primarily in order to ensure that the model does not repeat mistakes made elsewhere (such as that developed by the EU Commission). Decisions about what information to include, and the frequency with which information is to be provided would be key factors in determining which other models can be learned from.


The APPC definition of lobbying is as follows: Lobbying means in a professional capacity making any oral or written communication (including an electronic communication) to any member of the Government or its agencies, advisers or officials or member of the Parliament or their staff or advisers with regard to the formulation, modification, or adoption of legislation; the formulation, modification, or adoption of any rule, regulation, order, policy or position; the administration of any Government programme or policy, including the negotiation, award, or administration of a contract, grant, loan, permit, or license; or any other official act or decision.

A ‘lobbyist’ is therefore defined by activity undertaken, rather than by job description or job title and, for the purposes of the register, would be any person undertaking lobbying activity (as defined above) in a professional capacity.

Who should register?

A statutory register should cover any person undertaking lobbying activity in a professional capacity. This definition covers not just public affairs and political communication consultants, but also those working for law firms, management consultancies, planning consultancies, think tanks, trade associations, trade unions, charities, NGOs and in-house for businesses.

Whilst it is often public affairs and political communications consultants who are referred to as ‘lobbyists’, the reality is that only a small portion of lobbying is undertaken by such consultants. Any register that failed to incorporate the broadest possible range of those undertaking lobbying in a professional capacity would fail to achieve its objective of improving transparency and building public confidence.

Indeed, APPC believes that one of the consequential benefits of the greater openness and transparency brought about by a statutory register will be to dispel misconceptions about our sector and what we do. Certainly in relation to its own members, though often referred to as lobbyists, lobbying activity is in fact only one of a range of services provided to clients, and indeed only accounts for a relatively small proportion of their activity.

Code of Conduct

APPC would like to see all those who undertake lobbying in a professional capacity sign up and abide by, a suitable Code of Conduct such as APPC’s Code. But the articulation of a code of conduct should be a matter for the industry itself, not the operator of a register.

APPC would expect that one of the consequences of a statutory register would be an increased willingness on the part of those who are not already subject to a Code of Conduct to seek membership of a relevant association with such a Code and suitably robust complaints, regulatory, adjudication and disciplinary procedures. An option on the proposed register to indicate whether or not a registrant is a member of an association with an ethical code of conduct relating to lobbying activity would certainly assist in this objective.


A statutory register should be as complete as possible in order to fulfil the objective of openness and transparency but needs to be simple and straightforward to complete, and to check. Too little information would undermine the purpose of the register, but too much information would potentially render it unwieldy. It is vital that the right balance is achieved.

APPC would suggest the following necessary information to achieve this level of transparency:

  • Date (of contact)
  • Registrants Details (Person or persons who made contact, name of company/organisation, contact details)
  • Lobbying Undertaken on behalf of : (where lobbying was undertaken on behalf of a third party)
  • Who Contacted: (name and position. There will also need to be an option to register multiple or group contacts, for example ‘all MPs’ in the case of written briefings.
  • Type of Contact: (drop down list of type of contact, including meeting, telephone conversation, written briefing, email, presentation, etc.
  • Subject/Purpose of Contact: (issues/addressed)
  • Regulatory Association (option to indicate membership of an association with a code of conduct and regulatory regime promoting ethical lobbying).

 Financial Information

 APPC is fundamentally opposed, both in principle and in practice, to the proposal to include financial information in the register. In particular, the requirement to register a good faith estimate of client income related to lobbying is problematic for two reasons:

  1. This aspect of the proposed register is the only area where the information being requested is unverifiable by any second or third party, as there is no mechanism with which to check its accuracy. APPC believes that including unverifiable information in the register would undermine the integrity of the register.
  2. It would be overly burdensome on APPC’s members to try and calculate to any degree of accuracy. The reality of public affairs work is that lobbying is just one of a range of services provided to clients, and only accounts for a relatively small proportion of activity. Lobbying services are not costed separately in contracts, nor in invoices.

There is not and should not be, any correlation between the financial amount spent on lobbying activity by an organisation and the degree of influence it has on decisions made. To suggest otherwise would be to misrepresent our political system and traduce our political representatives and institutions. Far from encouraging transparency, the requirement to include financial information- even if it were possible in any meaningful and verifiable way- would simply function to reinforce any misconceptions that there is such a link.

Career History

APPC is not convinced of the need to include information on the career history of every person who undertakes lobbying activity in a professional capacity. The amount of information required is already significant and raises important issues around the management of the register, and verification of data. Too much information will make the register unwieldy. In most cases, relevant information about anyone lobbying in a professional capacity is likely to be publicly available anyway- if not on their company website then on linkedin, or available from a Google search. However, depending on the intention of this aspect of the proposal, it may be better to consider requiring registrants to indicate any public office held over the last five years, or whatever timeframe is deemed suitable.

Updating Register Entries

APPC would suggest that a statutory register would need to be published online on a quarterly basis, by whichever body is vested with the responsibility for its publication. For administrative purposes, there would be a time lag between the end of the quarter being covered and the date of publication, and this time-lag will be determined by the amount of information received and needing inputting by the administering body. APCC would also suggest that to ease the administrative burden, those registering should be allowed the option of either submitting information on a rolling basis during the three months to be covered by each published register, or as a single submission to be made before a given date.


 APPC cannot support any threshold-based requirements for registration, for the following reasons:

  1. The threshold approach does not obviate any burden on smaller organisations undertaking small amounts of lobbying as everyone undertaking any lobbying at all would need to keep track of their time spent on lobbying on an ongoing basis in order to check whether or not, at the end of each three month period, they had met the threshold requiring them to register.
  2. The idea of thresholds for registering activities implies that only lobbying activity at or above a certain financial value is worthy of being ‘open and transparent’, and therefore also proposes that lobbying below a certain value is not worth knowing about- in short, it suggests that degree of influence is related to the amount spent. This is both erroneous and misleading.

If there is to be a register of lobbying, with the intention of creating more openness and transparency, then the register needs to be based on lobbying activity as defined, and apply to all those who are not specifically exempt. Applying financial thresholds not only undermines the principle and objective of the register, but being extremely erroneous to calculate and in any case unverifiable, simply provides an opportunity for those wishing to avoid registration an opportunity to do so.

Exemption from Registering

There should be no exemptions for any individuals or organisations that conduct the ‘professional act of lobbying’ as defined for the purposes of the register.


Compliance with the requirement to register and the registration of correct information, can only be ensured and ‘policed’- if the information required is verifiable. This must be a basic principle of the register, otherwise it is a pointless exercise.

Registered information may be verified by reference to MPs, Ministerial and civil service diaries, and certainly in relation to some information regarding APPC’s members could be cross-referenced with the APPC register.

Regarding enforcement, APPC would welcome a progressive system of warning and sanctions, but which also allows for genuine error. However, it is difficult to see how ‘permanent removal from the register’ could be applied as a sanction, unless the purpose of the register was at least in part intended to act as a list of approved lobbyists. This goes beyond its stated purpose and complicates its function. The purpose is surely to create a public record of lobbying activity, to give clarity to who is lobbying whom and about what, not to function as a form of official endorsement of those who appear on it. APPC would propose that transgressions are investigated by a board that includes representation from the sector associations who have significant experience in investigating and adjudicating registration errors.

Registration Fee

Until the likely size and scope of the register, and number of registrants is known, and until the administrative cost can be adequately estimated, it is not possible to know what level of funding would be required.

It is certainly clear that any register would need to operate at as minimal a cost as possible, however it is funded, and for this reason the register itself- and its administration- would need to be kept as simple and straight-forward as possible.

Ideally, in order to ensure there was no disincentive to registering, the funding would need to come either solely or in the main part from the Government or Parliament.

In the event that charges were levied for registration, these will need to be sufficiently low so as not to be a disincentive for registration, and there would also need to be a sliding scale to reflect the size of the organization lobbying and/or the frequency of registration. If such an approach were to be taken, there would also be an administrative cost to the establishment and management of a fee charging/collecting capability within the administering body. An assessment would need to be made to the extent to which this would be a cost-effective approach.

It must be acknowledged that registering information could prove a significant time-burden to small and medium sized businesses and organisations, as well as to individuals. Such individuals/organisations cannot share the time burden across numerous staff and will therefore be disproportionately impacted upon in comparison to larger organisations.

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