The Irish Cancer Society Submission Registration of Lobbyists

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1 The Irish Cancer Society Submission Registration of Lobbyists 1. Introduction The Programme for Government contains a commitment to establish a register of lobbyists and to regulate lobbying. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has invited submissions from interested parities on the development of a system to regulate lobbying in Ireland. The Irish Cancer Society welcomes the opportunity to participate in the consultation process. The regulation of lobbying concerns the Irish Cancer Society as we advocate on a wide range of policy issues in order to ensure that fewer people get cancer and those that do have a better outcome. Part of our advocacy work includes activities which may be defined as lobbying. Lobbying is an essential part of the democratic process. It allows stakeholders to participate in the policy-making process and provide information. Lobbying provides opportunities for communication to take place between policymakers and those who will be affected by policy. However, all stakeholders should have fair and equitable access to participate in the policy-making process. The lobbying process needs to be transparent and open in order to ensure that stakeholders are operating on a level playing field and that there is public trust in the decision-making process. The consultation document provided by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is centered around the OECD Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying and asks questions relating to the principles and how they may be applied to the Irish political system. The document contains no indication of what measures may be introduced. While the Irish Cancer Society welcomes the opportunity to participate in the consultation process, it is our hope that there will be an opportunity to further input into the process when there is a clearer idea of what the measures which the Government intends to implement. 2. Defining Lobbying How the terms lobbying and lobbyist are defined is of paramount importance to the regulation of lobbying and could have serious consequences for level of the civic participation in our society. Comprehensive and robust definitions of these terms must be agreed on for regulation of lobbying to equitable and effective. International experience of regulating lobbying in Australia, Canada and the United States has demonstrated that where lobbyists are not clearly identified and demonstrably required to register, they will not do so i.

2 Lobbying activities are those conducted by individuals or groups, attempting to influence decisions at the political level. Lobbying activities include: Direct communications with public office holders, elected representatives, public and civil servants, Offering presentations Draft reports Telephone conversations etc. Lobbyists are those who, in a professional capacity, work to influence, or advise those who wish to influence, policy and decision making at a political level. The OECD advises that regulation should primarily target those who received compensation for carrying out lobbying activities, such as consultant and inhouse lobbyists but that the definition of lobbying activities should also be considered broadly to include groups which aim to influence public decisions. In addition to consultant and in-house lobbyists, a vast range of professions and organisations engage in lobbying activities including (but not limited to) accountants, communication professionals, solicitors, trade unions, interest groups, non-governmental organisations and charities. Differing approaches to classifying which type of organisations are required to register as lobbyists have been taken internationally. In Canada, the Lobbying Act 2008 covers consultant lobbyists (people who are paid to lobby on behalf of clients) and two types of in-house lobbyists, in corporations (commercial businesses) and in organisations (not-for-profit organisations). In-house lobbyists are required to register only where lobbying is a significant part of their work. Guidance on the meaning of a significant part of a person s duties explains that it is intended to cover those who spend more than 20% of their time on lobbying and/or the relative importance of lobbying in the context of their work. The 1995 US Lobbying Disclosure Act defines a lobbyist as any individual compensated by a client for services that include more than one lobbying contact (which guidance explains means more than one communication, and where there is an attempt to influence), except any whose lobbying activities constitute less than 20% of their time over a three-month period. Charitable and nonprofit organisations are excluded from the definition of lobbyist in the Australian Lobbying Code of Conduct and a Register of Lobbyists in 2008.

3 The Irish Cancer Society believes that regulation should apply to any group or individual working in a professional capacity to attempt to influence the formulation or implementation of policy. This should include contracting a third party to attempt to influence the formulation or implementation of policy. This definition would include interest groups, charities, trade unions and nongovernmental organisations in addition to professional lobbying consultancies. The Irish Cancer Society has been working for many years to protect people from the harms of smoking, to support smokers to quit and to protect young people from the tactics employed by the tobacco industry. Ireland has ratified the World Health Organisation s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). This is a legally binding treaty. Under the convention, engagement with the tobacco industry should be limited to only where it is strictly necessary i.e. in order to effectively regulate tobacco products and the tobacco industry itself. This engagement must be transparent; for instance written records, accessible to the public, should be kept of any meetings. Regulation of lobbying activity in Ireland will make it possible to monitor whether the treaty is being observed and determine what level of lobbying the tobacco industry is engaged in. A requirement for charitable organisations to register as lobbyists presents potential problems which any proposed legislation will need to address. Over 8,000 organizations in Ireland have been recognised by the Revenue Commissioners as being charities. Under the Charities Act 2009, these organisations are prohibited from promoting political parties or candidates and political causes which are not directly related to the advancement of the charitable purposes of the charity. Charities who engage in such activity can have their charitable status removed. Charities are permitted to engage in political advocacy that is directly related to advancing their charitable purposes. Lobbying is part of the suite of activities which fall under the term advocacy, and in many cases, a vital part of achieving their mission. Depending on how lobbying is defined, a situation could arise where by registering as lobbyists, charities could lose their charitable status as to register as a lobbyist would suggest that charities are engaged in activities prohibited by the Charities Act. If registration is a prerequisite to obtain access to policymakers and charities do not register for fear of the situation outlined above, a situation would arise where charities are prevented from playing a role in the development of policy in Ireland. Clearly, both of these situations are not acceptable. If charitable and non-profit organisations are required to register as lobbyists, an agreement with the Revenue Commissioners must be reached to ensure that there are no negative consequences for charities which register. 2. Ensuring a level playing field

4 In order to maintain a level playing field between all stakeholders wishing to influence policy, a balance must be struck between encouraging transparency and the introduction of bureaucratic or financial burdens which prevent or unduly constrain organisations engagement with the political system. Normal interaction between citizens and their TDs should not restricted by the regulation of lobbying. For example, grassroots advocacy activities carried out by individuals acting in a voluntary capacity should not fall within the scope of the legislation. Care must be taken to ensure that the administrative burden of regulation is proportionate and unlikely to prevent the active participation of groups (particularly smaller groups) in the policy-making process. Legislation seeking to regulate lobbying in Ireland needs to recognise the high level of access lobbyists have to decision-makers. Lobbying is often informal and is not confined to official settings. The French approach to regulation which requires interest representatives to be on an authorised list before they can gain access to the National Assembly building would be not be sufficient in Ireland, as lobbyists can easily meet elected representatives in a variety of settings and a number of lobbyists are themselves former members of the Oireachtas with unlimited access to the campus including the Members Bar. While it would be difficult to manage, this kind of access needs to be managed. TDs and Government ministers can be easily accessed through their public clinics. 4. Disclosure Lobbyists should be required to register as lobbyists and to provide information about their lobbying activities including: Name and address of lobbyist and if relevant the organisation of which the lobbyist is an employee If the lobbyist is lobbying on behalf of a third party, details of the third party must be provided The public office holders, elected representatives, civil or public servants being lobbied Details of the matter on which the lobbyist is lobbying Details of expenditure on lobbying activities Details of all meetings, s, phone calls and any communication Lobbyists should be required to file annual reports in relation to the above. This information should be publicly accessible online.

5 The level of regulation of lobbying systems varies from low level systems such as the one used in the European Parliament where registration is not mandatory for lobbyists, to high level systems like the ones in place in the USA and Canada. In Canada for example, lobbyists must disclose the names of lobbyists and their clients or organisations, the institutions being lobbied, the subjects of the lobbying and the methods used, details of any government funding received by the client/employer, information on lobbyists who used to hold public office and information on communications with certain public office holders. The experience of other jurisdictions suggests that more highly regulated systems promote greater accountability among politicians and lobbyists. Politicians and lobbyists in highly regulated systems were more likely to believe that such a system ensures accountability than those in less regulated systems. This is partly explained by the belief that more tightly regulatory systems promote accountability because the rules are stronger. Having a publicly accessible register of lobbyists and an obligation to disclose spending on lobbying also helped promote transparency ii. Registration and reporting of lobbying activities should therefore be mandatory for people and organisations which fit the definition of lobbyist or are engaged in activities which constituent lobbying. 5. Conclusion The Irish Cancer Society is in favour of any measures which will ensure greater transparency in the policy-making process. Regulation of lobbying will lead to greater public accountability and remove the ambiguity which surrounds lobbying activity in Ireland. The legislation must ensure that regulation does not prevent civic society from playing a full and appropriate role in the development of policy in Ireland. In particular, the Irish Cancer Society wants to ensure that the lobbying of the tobacco industry is transparent and subject to full accountability. 6. The Irish Cancer Society Established in 1963, the Irish Cancer Society is the national cancer charity. Our vision is that every person in Ireland will have access to the best possible cancer services; will have the lowest risk of getting cancer, the highest survival rates and the best support and information available when affected by cancer. Our goals are cancer prevention, early detection and fighting cancer with three programme areas to achieve them: advocacy, cancer services and research.

6 i OECD (2009), Lobbyists, Government and Public Trust, Volume 1: Enhancing Transparency through Legislation. Accessed online at ii R. Chari, G. Murphy and J. Hogan Regulating Lobbyists: A Comparative Analysis of the US, Canada, Germany and the European Union accessed online at df

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