Illegal unregistered Westminster lobbying 'rare', says regulator

The head of the Westminster lobbying regulator says that evidence of unregistered lobbying is "rare", and that the register she maintains "can be relied upon".

Set up in 2015, the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists maintains a register of third-party consultants who make certain oral, written or electronic communications with ministers or permanent secretaries of Government.

This has been criticised as an unhelpfully narrow scope, in particular for excluding in-house lobbyists - criticism which the office itself has acknowledged as accurate. 

Alison White, the registrar of consultant lobbyists, writes in ORCL's 2016-17 accounts, published yesterday: "During the past year, I have conducted a series of investigations about the potential requirement for registration of law firms and providers of support services to All-Party Parliamentary Groups.

"I have used information provided to me by whistle-blowing, review of Ministerial diaries and other sources, to enhance the quality of my investigations. As a result, I have satisfied myself that evidence of unregistered consultant lobbying taking place is rare, and that the information contained in the Register can be relied upon."

The register grew from 115 consultant lobbyists at the start of the year to 123 at its conclusion. However, fee income rose by more than 50 per cent from £80,093 to £128,104, due to the fact that fees are collected retrospectively.

The office received a grant-in-aid from the Cabinet Office of £259,685 last year, down from £312,204, as its fee income rose.

The accounts also show the registrar issuing fines totalling £900 to three agencies - MWW Communications UK, PHA Media and Rohde Public Policy UK - for late payment of their 2016 registration renewal fee.

The office's headcount increased from an average of 2.2 full-time equivalent staff in 2015-16, including White herself, to 2.6 in 2016-17. White worked 65.5 days last year, up from 57.5 days the year before. She is paid a daily rate of £420.


Read next: Law firms 'over-egging' their claims to offer public affairs, lobbying registrar says

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