Nash publishes draft legislation to tackle lobbying loophole

Ged Nash TD
29 September 2020
  • Proposed change to law empowers SIPO to carry out an investigation if there is a breach of Section 22 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act.
  • Provides for penalties including a Class C fine of up to €2,500, and up to two years in prison.

Following the controversy over the appointment of former Minister Michael D’Arcy as CEO of the Irish Association of Investment Managers, Labour spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Ged Nash has drafted new legislation that would address the lobbying loophole. The draft legislation was submitted today to the Oireachtas Bills office.

Deputy Nash said:

“We in the Labour Party are deeply concerned at the revolving door between former government members and the financial services sector and the cavalier attitude to the practice of lobbying. 

“Section 22 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 imposes restrictions on ‘post-term’ employment as a lobbyist that apply to persons who have served in certain sensitive positions.

“Essentially, there is a one year ‘cooling-off’ period for senior and junior Ministers, special advisers and senior civil servants. That means for one year from ceasing to hold such a position, the person may not, except with the formal consent of the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO), carry on lobbying activities, or be employed by a person carrying on lobbying activities, that involves the Government Department or other public body in which that person served during his or her last year of office or employment. 

“In the case of former Minister for Financial Services Michael D’Arcy no permission was sought from SIPO. Instead we are to believe that he and the IAIM will not engage in any lobbying for a year. This stretches credulity.

“Any effort to get around that is deeply worrying. However, the 2015 Act does not contain any enforcement powers in relation to section 22, nor is contravention of that section an actual offence. The purpose of this Bill is to regularise the situation, so as to enable section 22 to be properly enforced as the public would expect. 

“The draft Bill I have submitted defines what the clear contraventions would be and empowers SIPO to authorise an investigation. Anyone found to have contravened the section would be guilty of an offence. My proposed amendment would use the punishments already in the Act that provides for a Class C fine of up to €2,500 on summary conviction in the District Court. If a case was to proceed to a jury trial in the Circuit Court, the punishment available on conviction would include a fine or imprisonment for up to two years depending on the severity of the offence. 

“While the government has committed to a review of SIPO legislation on this matter, it is essential that it acts quickly. Confidence in politics depends on it. 

“The Regulation of Lobbying Act was already in the middle of review since the end of 2019 but we have yet to see the outcome of that process.”

ENDS

A copy of the Bill is available here:

https://www.labour.ie/download/pdf/regulation_of_lobbying_post-term_employment_as_lobbyist_bill.pdf

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