Explained: Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015



James Roddy
James Roddy

James Roddy explains the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 for today’s Irish Legal News bulletin.

The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (the “Act”) provides that if a person who falls within the scope of the Act, communicates with a designated public official, it is lobbying.  Anyone lobbying activity must be registered and regularly submit online returns detailing their lobbying activity.

As per section 9 of the Act the Standards in Public Office Commission (“the Commission”) has established and maintains a Register of Lobbying.

Section 6 of the Act defines Designated Public officials and includes:

  1. Ministers of the Government and Members of State
  2. Other member of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann
  3. Members of the European  Parliament for constituencies in the State
  4. Members of local authorities
  5. Special advisers appointed under section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997
  6. Public servants of a prescribed description
  7. Any other prescribed office holders or description of persons

Section 5(9) of the Act defines Relevant Matters as any matter relating to:

  1. the initiation, development or modification of any public policy or of any public programme
  2. the preparation or amendment of an enactment
  3. the award of any grant, loan or other financial support, contract or other agreement, or of any licence or other authorisation involving public funds, apart from any matter relating only to the implementation of any such policy, programme, enactment or award or of a technical nature.

Section 5(5) of the Act provides for a number of exemptions as to what is considered relevant matter.

If you a person are unsure whether or not the Act applies to them there is a three step test, to consider when lobbying and all components must be met:

  1. The person communicating must fall within the scope of the Act;
  2. The communication must be made personally (directly or indirectly) to a designated public official; and
  3. Communication must concern a relevant matter

There are three submission return deadlines for lobbying activity carried out in 2016.  The second relevant period runs from 1 May to 31 August and returns must be made by 21 September 2016

The return must indicate who was lobbied, the subject matter of the lobbying activity and the result the person was seeking to secure, the type and extent of activity and the name of any person within the lobbying organisation who is or was a designated official and carrier of the activity, and if relevant information about any client on whose behalf they are lobbying.

Part 4 of the Act deals with Enforcement and is expected to take effect from 1 January 2017.

Part 4, section 19 of the Act deals with powers to carry out investigation.

If the Commission reasonably believes that a person may have committed or may be committing a relevant contravention, the Commission may authorise the carrying out of an investigation under this section 19 of the Act.

Relevant contraventions are defined under Part 4 of the Act as:

  1. contravening section 8(1)
  2. Failing to make a return under section 12 as required by that section
  3. Providing to the Commission information known to be inaccurate or misleading
  4. Failing to comply with a requirement under section 19(4)
  5. Obstructing an investigation under section 19

Section 20 and 21 of the Act deals with Offences and Fixed Payments respectively.

Finally, section 2 of the Act provides for legislator review, scheduled to take place one year after commencement.  The review will be led by the Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform who may than consider recommendations for amendments to the Act.