The ‘right to petition’ is fundamental to the democratic process, and as regulatory lawyers we understand how vital engagement with government is for organisations seeking to influence and inform government and parliamentary decision-makers.
Stakeholders with practical experience often have exceptionally valuable and important insights that can help inform policy, support business and promote understanding of a sector or emerging industry. Sharing knowledge with decision-makers should mean that government has enough insight to take account of all stakeholders in reaching decisions on new laws or regulatory regimes.
Lobbying rules try to ensure that individuals or organisations do not take unfair advantage from access to government or politicians, and compliance with the rules ensures that those engaging in lobbying retain their reputations.
There is a patchwork of lobbying regulation within the UK and EU.
In the EU, a voluntary approach has been established through the EU Transparency Register, while in the UK a mandatory registration regime applies to the UK Parliament’s Lobbying Register, although this is limited to professional or commercial lobbyists.
Arguably, Scotland has the most comprehensive system in the UK following the introduction of the Lobbying Scotland Act 2016. This regulates all face-to-face communications with Members of the Scottish Parliament and senior Scottish civil servants, and participation is not restricted to professional lobbyists. Any organisation (with some exemptions) engaged in lobbying in Scotland should record lobbying activity in the Lobbying Register.
We are experienced at helping clients, especially those with complex corporate structures, comply with their legal obligations, and provide strategic support as clients develop their positioning on topics that they want to pursue with government and political representatives in the UK.
Practical compliance advice: we provide clear, practical advice on how to ensure compliance with all lobbying regimes in the UK, and advise on ensuring the rules on political donations are not infringed, including advising on Electoral Commission rules for political contributions.
Drafting support and advice: we can draft and advise on entries on public registers to ensure compliance with transparency requirements and that proper account is taken of public registers; the Lobbying Register in Scotland, for example, is online and is easily searchable.
Compliance design: we can work with you to design appropriate compliance approaches. This is especially relevant – and more challenging – for organisations with group or related structures, especially in the context of the wide remit of the Scottish lobbying regime.
Advising a medical research facility on regulated lobbying activities and the exemptions available under the Lobbying Scotland Act 2016
Advising a major UK utility, including liaising with the Electoral Commission, on the rules for party political funding in connection with major party political conferences
Advising a major Scottish religious institution on the implications of the Lobbying Scotland Act on its governance structure.