On 11 March 2015, the President enacted the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (the “Act”). However the principal provisions are expected to be commenced on later dates throughout 2015 and beyond.
The aim of the Act is to bring transparency to the public on the identity of those who are communicating with Government and senior civil and public servants on public policy matters. The Standards in Public Office Commission (the “Standards Commission”) is the body tasked with implementing these provisions and the office has been designated as the Registrar of Lobbying.
The Act requires the creation of a web-based based register of lobbying activity which should allow for greater public access to the flow of information, opinions or perspectives that feed into policy making or legislation.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform envisages a staged commencement of the various provisions of the Act and has published a list of the upcoming key dates as follows:
- The web-based register will launch on 1 May 2015 (the register will be available from this date to allow potential registrants to familiarise themselves with the system);
- The commencement date for the Act will be 1 September 2015; and
- The first returns are required to be filed by 21 January 2016 - anyone that is covered by the legislation will be obliged to register and to make a return in respect of lobbying activities carried out in the period from 1 September to 31 December 2015.
The Standards Commission’s initial primary focus is to issue guidance and information and it is currently recruiting a Head of Lobbying Regulation to support this function. The Standards Commission has also established an advisory group of relevant experts to assist in the development of the required guidelines and in respect of other implementation issues.
Section 18 of the Act provides for a number of contraventions by relevant persons, such as failing to register, providing information to the Standards Commission which is known to be inaccurate or misleading or obstructing an investigation. The penalties for such contraventions include the issuing of fixed penalty notices or, on summary conviction, the imposition of a Class C fine (not exceeding €2,500). However, the information guide that accompanied the publication of the Bill stated that these provisions will not be commenced until a review of its implementation is conducted after the first year. A similar statement currently appears on the website of the Standards Commission. This approach, if maintained, means that liability should only attach to lobbyists once the duties and obligations arising under the Act are deemed to have been effectively communicated to all concerned.
We will provide further updates once the initial guidance is published.
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