Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Here are answers to some of the most common questions that we are asked. These answers should be read alongside the more detailed information in the legislation and the guidance that the Registrar has issued. The FAQs do not aim to deal with unusual or complex situations and the Office of the Registrar is happy to provide further information or guidance email@example.com
Questions for all
The Registrar is an independent statutory office holder appointed under the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 (‘the Act’).
Under the Act, the Registrar is required to:
- establish and manage the UK Register of Consultant Lobbyists
- develop and publish guidance for consultant lobbyists on their duties under the Act
- monitor and enforce compliance with the Act’s legal requirements
- publish an annual statement of accounts.
What does the Act require of consultant lobbyists?
The Act sets out two key obligations on consultant lobbyists as defined by the Act:
- register before conducting any consultant lobbying activity
- submit details of clients they have lobbied for or been paid to lobby for each quarter.
When investigating whether a person or organisation should be on the Register, the Registrar may issue a statutory Information Notice, requiring the provision of relevant information. The Registrar may issue a civil penalty notice where a person or organisation has not complied with the requirements of the Act. This includes: undertaking consultant lobbying whilst unregistered; failing to respond to a statutory information notice (or responding in an inaccurate, late, or incomplete manner); or failing to provide a Quarterly Information Return (or doing so in an inaccurate, late, or incomplete manner). If a person or organisation commits an offence under the Act the Registrar can impose a civil penalty of up to £7500 or refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions for potential criminal prosecution.
Is the Registrar a regulator of lobbying or public affairs? Can I complain to the Registrar about the conduct of a lobbyist?
The Registrar is not a regulator, but ensures that consultant lobbying activity is registered in accordance with the Act. If a registrant wishes to declare on the Register that they abide by a code of conduct, the Registrar determines whether the proposed code is ‘relevant’ to consultant lobbying and can therefore be declared on the Register. This assessment includes the requirement for a code to include some external and independent oversight in the monitoring or handling of complaints of breach of the code. If a code of conduct is declared on the Register, this will include a route for complaints. The Registrar has no role in the handling of any such complaints, nor in monitoring adherence to any declared code.
Yes. The Registrar takes allegations about a person or organisation who is suspected of carrying out consulting lobbying without being on the Register seriously. If there is sufficient evidence, the Registrar will conduct a formal investigation. Please send as much detail as possible to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Registrar is an office holder appointed by statute and is independent of Government. They are accountable to Parliament, principally through the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. The Registrar provides their annual report and accounts to Parliament. As with other public bodies, the Registrar has a sponsor department, (Cabinet Office in this case) whose Minister arranges for the provision of staff and services to support the Registrar in delivering their statutory duties.
Policy and legislation relating to lobbying are the responsibility of the Cabinet Office, not the Registrar.
If I am registered with the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists (ORCL) do I also need to register with the Foreign Influence Registration Scheme (FIRS) and vice versa?
ORCL and FIRS are separate, with different requirements. There is a statutory requirement for UK VAT registered companies/individuals who communicate with UK Ministers and/or Permanent Secretaries on behalf of a paying client to register with the ORCL. More detail is in the Registrar’s guidance. Legislation to introduce FIRS is being considered by Parliament. A factsheet on the FIRS scheme can be found here. Guidance will be provided ahead of the FIRS scheme going live. FIRS is not administered by ORCL. It is your responsibility to understand any separate rules that you may be subject to in addition to the Act.
Does the channel or medium of communication matter? How about email, WhatsApp, or text?
All communications by any medium made directly, that meet the criteria for consultant lobbying are registrable. This includes in person, in writing or digitally – including online meetings, telephone calls, emails and text messages on any platform.
Is there a media list for journalists?
Yes. to opt in or out, email email@example.com giving your name, email address and organisation that you work for.
Prospective registrant questions
It is illegal to conduct consultant lobbying activity without first being on the statutory Register. In broad terms, consultant lobbying is communicating with a UK Government Minister or Permanent Secretary (or certain equivalents) on behalf of a third party, in return for payment. There is a definition in the Act and the Registrar’s guidance contains more detailed information on applying that definition. Please contact us if you are unsure if your activities require you to register.
No. The statutory obligation applies only to consultant lobbying, so lobbying by in-house teams or on behalf of yourself is outside the remit of the Registrar. In the interests of transparency, such people may wish to consider including themselves on the voluntary industry body registers, such as the UK Lobbying Register (maintained by CIPR) or the Public Affairs Register (maintained by PRCA).
No. The Register exists to give public clarity and transparency about which organisations and individuals undertake consultant lobbying work and for whom.
No. If your organisation is not registered for VAT, then you cannot join the Register.
I have applied for VAT but don’t have a number yet. Can I register?
No, you can’t register with us until you are fully VAT registered. If you should be VAT registered, you must not make any communications that might otherwise be registrable until you have your VAT number and register with us.
What if I have conducted consultant lobbying work or been paid in advance to do so before realising I needed to register?
Delivering or being paid in advance for consultant lobbying work whilst unregistered is an offence under the Act, even if committed unintentionally. It is therefore highly likely that you will receive a civil penalty for any pre-registration consultant lobbying activity when you do register. Where you voluntarily declare such breaches, the Registrar will take that into account in determining any penalty, as opposed to higher penalties that are likely for offences that are not voluntarily disclosed.
You can apply to join the Register via the Register portal. We will enter your details on the published Register within four working days of a completed registration. You will be sent a registration fee demand, which must be paid within 30 days to validate your registration.
Registration costs £1000 a calendar year. This is made up of the registration fee of £950 and £12.50 per Quarterly Information Return period. If you join the Register part-way through a year, you will pay a pro-rata fee. There is also a fee of £12.50 for processing your initial registration. Fee levels are determined by the Cabinet Office through secondary legislation.
The payment demand will include payment details.
No. Lobbying of Members of Parliament falls outside the remit of the Registrar (unless the MP is also a Minister). The legislation allows for lobbying of special advisers to be included alongside Ministers and Permanent Secretaries by regulation, but this has not been enacted.
Existing registrant questions
In simple terms, your responsibility is to keep your information on the Register up to date. You must supply information in a Quarterly Information Return (QIR) in the two-week period after the end of a quarter. This confirms whether or not you have undertaken (or been paid in advance for) consultant lobbying work during the preceding quarter and lists the clients concerned. You must also advise the Registrar of changes to the other statutory information in your published Register entry, including any change to your code of conduct declaration. Your legal obligation is to advise the Registrar of these changes in the QIR, but you should inform us of any changes to contact information immediately so that we can communicate with you properly.
What will I be asked in the QIR?
You will be required to:
- Login to your account and create a QIR
- Confirm you are authorised to complete the QIR and that you understand the QIR obligations under the Act. You can update your QIR throughout quarter, but can’t submit until the submission window is open.
- Submit client names if you have lobbied in return for payment or received payment to engage in lobbying. Otherwise declare a nil return.
- Confirm or update your business details.
- Confirm or update your affiliates list.
- Confirm or update any undertaking to comply with a relevant code of conduct.
- Submit form
- ORCL checks and publishes within four days of a completed QIR if there are no queries.
Yes, though you will not be able to do so through your online Register account. Once the QIR has been submitted, if you need to make a correction, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the details and we will amend your entry. If the correction is made after the QIR deadline and is an inaccuracy rather than for example, a typo, it is an offence under the Act and will be referred to the Registrar.
Failure to provide accurate and complete information within the statutory time period is an offence under the Act, even if committed unintentionally. The requirements and timeframe for providing QIRs are clear and the Registrar is therefore very likely to issue a civil penalty for a missing, late, inaccurate or incomplete QIR.
What if I’m not sure whether an activity is registerable?
The registration fee applies for a full calendar year, so we send out fee renewal notices in November and you must pay this by 31 December. If you do not pay your fee before 1 January you will be removed from the Register with effect from that date and will need to re-register before you can legally undertake any consultant lobbying work.
The Registrar understands that some registrants may not undertake consultant lobbying activity in every quarter. After two consecutive QIRs declaring that no consultant lobbying was undertaken or paid for during the period, the registrant will be marked in the Register as ‘This registrant has completed nil returns for the last six or more months’, but will remain registered and therefore able to provide consultant lobbying services legally in future.
Contact the Office by email to email@example.com. You can leave from the date you email us or from a future date. You cannot backdate the date you leave. Your leaving date will be used to calculate and issue you a pro rata refund for the remainder of that calendar year’s registration fee.
The Registrar is the only statutory body concerned with registration of consultant lobbying activity in relation to UK Government Ministers and Permanent Secretaries. However, you might find the following useful:
- CIPR: The Chartered Institute of Public Relations is a Royal Chartered body for public relations professionals. www.cipr.co.uk
- House of Lords Commissioner for Standards: investigates alleged breaches of the House of Lords Code of Conduct. www.parliament.uk
- Ministers’ and Permanent Secretaries’ external meetings: these are published quarterly and are available through each individual department’s website. Open Access UK (operated by Transparency International UK) is a searchable database of the ministerial information. www.transparency.org.uk
- Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards: oversees the MPs’ Code of Conduct and the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. www.parliament.uk
- PRCA: PRCA is a professional body for PR and its Public Affairs Board operates the Public Affairs Register. www.prca.org.uk/publicaffairsboard
- Scottish Parliament Lobbying Register: records face-to-face lobbying of MSPs, members of the Scottish Government, Special Advisers and the Permanent Secretary. www.lobbying.scot
- Transparency International UK: operates Open Access UK which gathers published data on meetings with UK Government Ministers in a searchable database. www.transparency.org.uk
- UK Lobbying Register: voluntary register run by CIPR. www.lobbying-register.uk