Frequently asked questions
Here are answers to some of the most common questions that we are asked. These set out the general position, but you can find more detailed and definitive information on many of these topics in the legislation and the guidance that the Registrar has issued. If you have a question that is not answered here or in the legislation or published guidance, please contact the Office of the Registrar and we will be happy to help: Enquiries@orcl.gov.uk.
Questions of general interest
What is the role of the Registrar?
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 detailed 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.
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.
What are the Registrar’s powers?
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).
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. 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 that code. However, the Registrar has no role in the handling of any such complaints, nor in monitoring adherence to any declared code.
Can I report someone for engaging in consulting lobbying whilst not on the Register?
Yes. The Registrar investigates allegations about a person or organisation who is suspected of carrying out consulting lobbying without being on the Register. Please email as much detail as possible to Enquiries@orcl.gov.uk.
Who is the Registrar accountable to?
The Registrar is an office holder appointed by statute and is independent of Government. They are accountable directly 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.
Who is responsible for policy and legislation concerning lobbying?
Policy and legislation relating to lobbying are the responsibility of the Cabinet Office, not the Registrar.
Questions for prospective registrants
Do I need to join the statutory Register?
It is illegal to conduct consultant lobbying activity without first being on the statutory Register. In broad terms, consultant lobbying is contacting 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.
I lobby for myself or my organisation and not for third parties, so do I need to Register?
No. The statutory obligation applies only to consultant lobbying, so lobbying by in-house teams or individuals is outside the remit of the Registrar. In the interests of general transparency, such people may wish to consider including themselves on the voluntary registers maintained by industry bodies, such as the UK Lobbying Register (maintained by CIPR) and/or the Public Affairs Register (maintained by PRCA).
Can I join the Register if I am not a consultant lobbyist?
No. The Register exists to give public clarity and transparency about which organisations and individuals undertake consultant lobbying work and for whom.
I am not registered for Value Added Tax (VAT). Do I need to register as a consultant lobbyist?
No. If your organisation is not registered for VAT, then you cannot join the Register.
What if I have inadvertently delivered or been paid in advance for consultant lobbying work 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 proactively 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 proactively disclosed.
How do I join the Register?
You can apply to join the Register via the Register portal or you can email us at Enquiries@orcl.gov.uk. In either case, once we have confirmed that the activity requires registration, gathered all necessary information and you have paid the registration fee, we will enter your details on the published Register. Although this process can take some time, once we have confirmed your registration details and you have paid the fee, we backdate the legally effective date of your registration to the date you contacted us to initiate registration.
How much does registration cost?
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 a Cabinet Office Minister through secondary legislation.
How do I pay the Registrar?
All payments due to the Registrar (whether registration fees or civil penalties) are invoiced and the invoice will include payment details.
Do I need to register consultant lobbying of MPs or Ministers’ special advisers?
No. Lobbying of Members of Parliament falls outside the remit of the Registrar. The legislation allows for lobbying of special advisers to be included alongside ministers and Permanent Secretaries by regulation, but this has not been done.
Questions for existing registrants
What are my obligations once on the Register?
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 and details of any relevant code of conduct. 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.
Can I correct my Quarterly Information Return once submitted?
Yes, though you will not be able to do so through your online Register account. Once the QIR has been formally submitted, if you need to make a correction, please email Enquiries@orcl.gov.uk with the details and we will amend your entry.
What if I miss the deadline for submitting my QIR?
Failure to provide accurate and complete such information within the statutory time periods 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.
When is the annual renewal fee to remain on the Register due?
The registration fee applies for a full calendar year, so we send out fee renewal invoices around six week before the start of the new registration year and you should pay this by mid-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.
Will I be removed from the Register if I am not actively undertaking consultant lobbying work?
The Registrar understands that some registrants may not undertake consultant lobbying activity in every quarter. After two consecutive QIRs that specify that no consultant lobbying was undertaken or paid for during the period, the registrant will be marked in the Register as ‘not an active consultant lobbyist’, but will remain registered and therefore able to provide consultant lobbying services legally in future.
How do I leave the Register?
Contact the Office by email to Enquiries@orcl.gov.uk and we will agree the effective date of your leaving the Register, which will be used to calculate and issue you a pro rata refund in respect of the remainder of that calendar year’s registration fee.
What other organisations operate in this field?
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. Its members are listed on its PR Register and undertake to comply with their code of conduct. www.cipr.co.uk
- House of Lords Commissioner for Standards: the Commissioner 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: amongst other things, the Commissioner oversees the MPs’ Code of Conduct and the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. www.parliament.uk
- PRCA: PRCA is a professional body for PR. Its Public Affairs Board operates the Public Affairs Register on which members declare their activity. Members of the PAB undertake to comply with their code of conduct. 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: independent anti-corruption organisation that operates Open Access UK which gathers the published data on meetings with UK Government Ministers in a searchable database. www.transparency.org.uk
- UK Lobbying Register: voluntary register run by CIPR on which some lobbyists choose to register and undertake to comply with the CIPR code of conduct. www.lobbying-register.uk