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4. Exemptions from registration

The following circumstances exclude a person from the definition of consultant lobbying and therefore do not require registration:

  • [Individuals and organisations not registered under the Value Added Tax Act (1994)]
  • Individuals making communications in the course of their employer’s business (only the employer is required to be registered)
  • Officials or employees of governments of countries other than the United Kingdom
  • International organisations as defined by section 1 of the International Organisations Act 1968 such as the United Nations
  • ‘In-house’ lobbyists defined as those who are lobbying on behalf of their own organisation
  • Organisations that carry on a business which is mainly non-lobbying and communicate with Ministers in a way that is incidental to the main course of their business
  • Organisations that represent a particular class or body of people and whose income is derived wholly or mainly from those people, and where the lobbying is incidental to their general activity.

Lobbying that is incidental to non-lobbying activities

The Act states that a person does not, by reason of making a communication, carry on the business of consultant lobbying if:

  1. the person carries on a business which consists mainly of non lobbying activities, and
  2. the making of the communication is incidental to the carrying on of those activities.

Incidental means ancillary to the main focus of a business (which is not lobbying). The making of the communication is connected with the business, but is secondary to its main concern.

An example is when a doctor communicates with a Minister of the Crown on behalf of a patient (their client) to argue for provision of a drug necessary to the patient’s treatment being provided by the NHS. This could be done in person, in writing or otherwise. In this case, the main focus of the doctor’s business is to provide care to their patient and therefore this communication is incidental to the main focus of their business.

The making of communications is not considered to be incidental when it is a substantive part of the main business, even if it is not the largest part. There is no specific threshold for the amount of interaction that would meet the definition of lobbying: the definition is qualitative, not quantitative.

Situations may arise in which the main focus of a business may be law, accountancy, management consultancy or any other, but the subjects on which the organisation communicates with Ministers or Permanent Secretaries and/or the method and frequency of the communications, requires them to register.

For example, the organisation may have a Government Relations team, lead Partner or any other employee, whose job it is to communicate with Ministers and Permanent Secretaries on behalf of the firm’s clients. The fact that the firm considers this service incidental to their business does not mean that they are not lobbying: it is the making of relevant communications that is significant.

Client confidentiality

In terms of client confidentiality, any professional would be expected to keep client affairs confidential unless disclosure is required by law. Here, the disclosure of client names would be required by the Act and professionals who are required to register, would have a duty to inform their client accordingly. There may be isolated instances where the Registrar might consider restriction on publication if this was clearly not in the public interest.

Officials of governments outside the UK

If the communicator is an official or member of staff of a sovereign power or government outside the UK, or an international organisation, registration is not required.

However, a consultant lobbying organisation representing an official of a government outside the UK would be required to register and declare this government as a client if they meet the criteria of consultant lobbying.

Membership organisations

The Act states that organisations that represent a particular class or body of people, whose income is derived wholly or mainly from those people and who communicate on behalf of those people in a way that is an incidental part of that general activity are exempt from the requirement to register.

This refers to a group of, for example, workers, club members, professional-body, or trade-body members. Those organisations representing such groups are exempt from having to register even if they lobby Ministers of the Crown or Permanent Secretaries, provided their communications are only made in their capacity as representatives of those organisations. However, in the case that they were, for some reason, to accept payment from a third party who is not part of the group they normally represent, in exchange for communications made to Ministers or Permanent Secretaries in a way that is not incidental to their general activity, then they would be required to register.

Management of trade or membership organisations

It might be the case that a consultant lobbyist organisation is also linked to the management of a trade or membership organisation and lobbies on behalf of both its members and its clients.

When deciding whether or not to register as a result of a specific communication, the organisation should consider the criteria for consultant lobbying and on whose behalf payment was received.

Trade or membership organisations are exempt only when lobbying on behalf of a class or body of people; their income is derived wholly or mainly from that class or body of people and their communications are incidental to their general activity.

If lobbying is conducted on behalf of a client who is not represented by that trade or membership organisation in a way that is not incidental to their general activity, this is an act of consultant lobbying and will need to be registered, regardless of whether they are a trade or membership organisation or not.

In this case, the trade or membership organisation would be required to join the Register as a separate entity (and pay the registration fee) in addition to any registration made on behalf of the individual’s consultant lobbyist organisation.

Charities

Charities are exempt from registering as long as they do not receive payment for making communications from the person upon whose behalf they are made.

However, if a charity received payments from the person upon whose behalf it made communications, it would be required to register.