Newsletter – May 2017
Update on Quarterly Information Returns for January- March 2017
At the end of March 2017 there were 123 registrants live on the Register of these, 121 submitted their Quarterly Information Return (QIRs) within the statutory deadline. The Office issued warning letters to two registrants for submitting their QIRs after the deadline.
17 registrants submitted nil returns, which is 14% of the Register. The Registrar keeps multiple nil returns under constant review and regularly meets organisations who persistently file nil returns. The key issue for consideration is whether those organisations are likely to conduct relevant communications within the foreseeable future.
The Office has noted the continued decrease in the number of administrative errors submitted especially in avoiding/changing acronyms and other anomalies in client information and is grateful for the care and attention to detail which goes into ensuring this continues to be the case. The latest technical update of the Register provides a drop down option for past clients declared which the Office hopes will help to further support in ensuring clients are consistently declared from one quarter to the next.
During the course of this year, the Office will be conducting audits of the accuracy of all information submitted from the date of opening of the Register. If any organisation has concerns that any of its past information may not be correct, for whatever reason, then please contact the Office for help in making the necessary corrections. The Registrar wishes to remind registrants that the onus is on them to ensure their records are correct and up to date at all times. The Office recommends that Registrants review all their organisational information at the same time QIRs are being completed to ensure this continues to be current.
Over-declaration of clients
There is a growing sense that registrants may be declaring clients in their QIRs which fall outside the legal definition of Consultant Lobbying. This issue was addressed by the Registrar at the stakeholder conference in February. Over-declaration is not a good thing-the legislation does not require “transparency” or “erring on the side of caution”.
In most instances, the reason for over-declaration falls into three categories:
- drafting a letter for a client, which the client signs,
- or briefing a client for a meeting, which the consultant lobbyist does not attend, and
- communications with a Minister’s office or secretary.
None of these are registrable.
Registrants may find it helpful to refresh their knowledge of the Registrar’s Requirements to Register guidance. Section 2 Information Updates, deals with QIR requirements and can be found by clicking here and visiting the guidance section of the ORCL website. Additionally the Registrar’s recent APPG guidance can be found by clicking here or visiting the specialist guidance section of the website.
If registrants have any concerns that they may have declared clients in error on any of their past returns, then please contact the Office as soon as possible.
The Registrar is very willing to engage directly with registrants who are seeking clarification on whether specific communications are registrable. Additionally the Registrar has undertaken a number of visits to registrants, presenting to staff in order to build knowledge and understanding. If this is something you believe would be helpful, please contact the Office.
Code of conduct project
The Registrar has now issued her response to the consultation on codes of conduct. If you have not yet read the document, please click here or visit the news section of our website:
The Registrar has determined to retain the category of “other” code which currently appears on the face of the Register. These ‘other’ codes are now being reviewed on a case-by-case basis to establish whether the code may properly be said to govern the carrying on of the business of consultant lobbying. This will involve having regard to factors including (but not limited to):
- Relevance to the business of consultant lobbying of the UK Government;
- Regularity of review (therefore ensuring the code remains relevant);
- Compliance processes to ensure the code is properly applied and remains relevant to all those that subscribe to it.
The outcome of the review will be reported in due course.
The Registrar considers that the position regarding a code of conduct should be entirely transparent to users of the Register. Users should have access to all the information they need to make up their minds about the organisation concerned. The legislation makes no judgement about organisations which do not declare a code at all – it is left to the user to make up their own mind about the presence or absence of a code and what kind of code it is.
The legislation also states that the address where the code may be inspected should be available, and this is stated on the face of the Register.
In future, a hyperlink will be provided for all codes and a copy will be held by the Office, so any user will be able to access any code declared if they wish to do so.
If anyone wishes to provide feedback about the recently refreshed website, the Office would very much welcome this – please take a few moments to complete the survey which may be found by visiting our website or clicking here.
Debbie John has now moved elsewhere in the Civil Service, so please direct any enquiries to the Office email address firstname.lastname@example.org.