Lobbying registrar admits law 'does not constitute regulation in its fullest sense'

A spokeswoman for the body regulating Westminster lobbying has told PRWeek that the law underpinning the regime "does not constitute regulation in its fullest sense" and that the registrar wants to "avoid any misconception that it might do so".

ORCL logo: a no-go
ORCL logo: a no-go

The Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists (ORCL) runs a register where consultant lobbyists detail certain communications with ministers or permanent secretaries in Westminster.

It went live in March 2016, but has been criticised by many, including public affairs professionals themselves, as insubstantial and limited in scope. The designated registrar herself, Sarah White, is also understood to have expressed similar frustrations in meetings with lobbying firms - but has publicly said that her job is to implement the legislation, rather than comment on its efficacy.

The latest edition of ORCL's quarterly newsletter, distributed to registrants last week, contains an item entitled 'Use of Registrar's Logo'.

It reads: "The Registrar has noted that the ORCL logo has been used on some registrant websites, potentially implying that registration confers some kind of status or quality mark. Please note that the Registrar does not consider this to be appropraite, and so if the logo is shown on your organisation's website, the Registrar would be grateful for its immediate removal."

Asked by PRWeek to expand on this point, an ORCL spokeswoman said in a statement: "The reason for this is that the Registrar does not wish there to be any incorrect impression created that the logo suggests some kind of quality mark or adherence to a set of standards, similar to circumstances where organisations are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or a healthcare regulator.

"The legislation requires registration of consultant lobbyists in certain situations where they directly communicate with Ministers and/or Permanent Secretaries. There is no suggestion that by registering, the organisation concerned is doing anything other than adhering to the law."

And the spokeswoman went on to say that the law that created ORCl, 2014's lobbying act, "does not require or enable the Registrar to conduct any analysis of competence, ethics or quality, or enable the raising of standards, and therefore does not constitute regulation in its fullest sense".

"The Registrar wishes to avoid any misconception that it might do so," she said.

PRWeek found two examples of the logo being used on the website of ORCL-registered firms; Atlas Partners and Invicta Public Affairs. Atlas said it was "happy to remove" the logo, which had only been on its website since shortly before Christmas, while Invicta also said it would remove ORCL emblem.

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