New lobbying rules a welcome boost for transparency, says JTI Ireland

JTI Ireland welcomes regulation, stating the new act will "ensure that everyone undertaking lobbying activities is held to the same high standards"



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31 August 2015

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From today, lobbyists will be required to keep records of their activities and provide these details to the Standards in Public Office Commission by 21 January 2016.


Tobacco manufacturer JTI Ireland has welcomed the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015, which establishes a web-based register of lobbying activity that can be easily accessed by the public.

This register will show “who is lobbying whom about what”, and makes the public policy making process more transparent, while allowing all interested stakeholders to make their views known to public officials and policymakers.

However, it will be at least five months before the public will be able to access the first details of lobbying contacts will be available to the public.

A failure to record lobbying activity could lead to a fine of up to €200 or a potential jail term for more serious breaches of the law. The legislation also outlines a one-year “cooling-off” period which means lobbying cannot be carried out by some former public officials during this time.

Article 5.3 of FCTC

Cheryl Cullen, head of Regulatory Affairs, JTI Ireland said: “As a business in a highly regulated sector, it is imperative that we meet with policy makers to discuss various approaches to tobacco regulation, even if they are ultimately rejected. Lobbying is an essential part of the democratic process as it allows the sharing of expertise, ideas and different perspectives between all interested parties. This new act will ensure that everyone undertaking lobbying activities is held to the same high standards – be it a business, charitable organisations or representative body. At the same time all registered lobbyists will be protected from unfair and arbitrary exclusion.”

Article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) states: “In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.”

Cullen said that “in this context, an incorrect interpretation” of the article, “and its non-binding guidelines is too often used in an attempt to exclude the tobacco industry from discussions on tobacco policy. The act sets out statutory requirements, is fully transparent and leaves no room for arbitrary exclusion or discrimination against particular industries. Minister Howlin should be commended for this.”

Meanwhile Nuala Haughey, of think tank Tasc, said in The Irish Times that the law was “a considerable shift away from a culture of secrecy to one of more openness”. However she added: “It is really too early to judge whether the mandatory registration regime will be up to the job of capturing the full extent of formal and informal lobbying by all the different interest groups that are out there.”



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