Lobbying in the UK – what you need to know

4 minute read
16 March 2020

Increasingly, companies are coming to understand the value of investing time in helping to shape and influence the laws and regulations to which they are subject, particularly while regulatory frameworks are still in the development stage.

Such an approach is particularly important in developing areas and sectors where regulation is still in its infancy and where the practical insight that stakeholders can bring is of considerable value to rule-makers seeking to understand exactly what it is they are seeking to regulate, where the issues lie and what approaches will best strike the balance between public policy and innovation.

The government's stated intention to use the UK's departure from the EU as an opportunity to develop its own regulatory frameworks will increase the opportunities that business will have to influence change.

Many business and trade bodies - both within and outside the UK - will be anxious to make their voices heard so as to help shape the laws, regulatory frameworks and trade deals that will come into effect over the next few years. Quite aside from the effect that Brexit will have on well-established sectors, new areas and technologies will fall to be regulated such as driverless cars and new energy storage and supply technologies, as well as the government's recent proposals for regulation of 'online harms'.

Some businesses will also wish to change government policy in particular areas, a good example being calls for further relaxation in the approach to the supply and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

For those that wish to engage with UK law makers, political parties and civil servants as part of this process, it will be important to understand the various rules and regulations around doing so.

Our Public Law and Regulation team has authored the UK chapter Getting the Deal Through - Government Relations 2020. Authored by experts around the world, Government Relations offers first step, comparative analysis of the legal frameworks, regulations and procedures concerning the practice of government relations and lobbying within the most significant jurisdictions worldwide, including the UK.

Our chapter is a vital resource for those wishing to undertake lobbying activity in the UK, and includes details of the following important points:

  1. Subject to certain exceptions, it is an offence for an individual or organisation to lobby for others in return for payment, without being regulated by the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists;
  2. There are strict regulations around donations to political parties, members associations and holders of relevant elected offices. The Electoral Commission has the power to investigate potential breaches, and issue fines or require action to be taken or ceased where those regulations have been breached;
  3. The codes of conduct that apply to government ministers, Members of Parliament and civil servants subject them to stringent requirements in relation to how they must deal with lobbyists, including the registration of interests as well as gifts, benefits or hospitality that they receive; and
  4. It is an offence for a person to offer or pay a bribe, or to receive or agree to receive a bribe, either directly or indirectly, and businesses incorporated or carrying on business in the UK must have adequate procedures in place to prevent such conduct by their employees.

For more detailed information on the legislative framework, regulations and procedure around lobbying, financing of political parties and anti-corruption measures in the UK, read our full chapter.

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