46.This Private Member’s bill had its Second Reading on 9 September 2016. Its purpose is to repeal and replace the whole of the provision in Part 1 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 about the regulation of lobbying.
47.Clause 1 provides for a registrar who is, among other things, to establish and maintain a Register of Lobbyists. The expression “lobbyists” is defined in clauses 2 and 3; and clauses 4 and 5 make provision about their registration. A person who engages in lobbying activity without being registered commits a criminal offence, by virtue of clause 9.
48.Clause 7 provides for the registrar to prepare and publish, and from time to time revise, a Code of Conduct with which registered lobbyists must comply, or risk being suspended or removed from the register under clause 8(3). Potential ingredients for the Code are set out in clause 7(4). Subsection (3) requires the Code, and any revision of it, to be laid before both Houses in draft and to be approved by each House before it may come into force. We consider that affirmative procedure to be an appropriate level of scrutiny, because the contents of the Code will be important, and compliance with it is to be mandatory.
49.We are, however, concerned that the proposed commencement arrangements for the Code might cause uncertainty in practice, because it is to come into force as soon as the second House approves it under clause 7(3). In view of the significance of the Code, we consider that those to whom it is to apply should have notice of its provisions and that there should be certainty as to the date from which it is to apply. It therefore seems to us to be inappropriate that the activation of important new obligations should depend on the timetabling of a Parliamentary debate.
50.Timing difficulties of that kind can be overcome, for statutory codes where affirmative approval is required, by providing for the code, or revisions of it, to be laid before Parliament in draft and to come into force on a day specified by the Secretary of State in an order made by statutory instrument. Generally, it is the order, rather than the code itself, that requires affirmative approval in draft before it may be made. Such an approach was adopted for the commencement of the code of practice, and revisions of it, issued under section 195S of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
51.We recommend that clause 7(3) be amended to make similar provision in relation to the coming into force of the Code of Conduct under the bill.