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Former politicians will face temporary ban on lobbying under new rules

Proposals approved by ministers will enforce a legal “cooling-off” period for former office holders going into lobbying.

The rules are designed to stop former office holders from using their connections for financial gain shortly after they leave their jobs.
The rules are designed to stop former office holders from using their connections for financial gain shortly after they leave their jobs.
Image: EDHAR via Shutterstock

RETIRED OR FORMER politicians will be barred from lobbying their former colleagues for a year after leaving office, under new proposals approved by the Cabinet today.

Ministers have approved a draft version of new legislation to regulate and control political lobbying, which will require lobbyists to register with a new overseeing body before they try to lobby public office holders or civil servants on policies.

The Regulation of Lobbying Bill, as it will be known, provides for a one-year “cooling off” period so that former office holders will not be allowed onto the register for a year after they have held the office.

The idea is to ensure that a former politician or senior office holder, who loses their seat at an election or who retires, cannot use their connections within their former job to act on behalf of private lobbyists for at least a year afterwards.

A draft version of the Bill had been compiled after feedback from many bodies, who raised concerns that complying with the new rules could prove too burdensome.

As a result, the final proposals within the Bill will not require lobbyists to disclose every single contact they have with a public official or representative – but instead record the subject of the communication, the purpose of the lobbying, and the intensity of the contact.

Rules also cover ministers’ aides and advisors

As well as Ministers, TDs, Senators and local councillors, the legislation will also govern any contact with politicians’ staff, ministerial Special Advisors and senior public and civil servants, to ensure that there is no ‘back door’ by which companies can indirectly lobby ministers.

Special dispensation will be given to charities, to ensure that any lobbying they engage in does not threaten their financially crucial charitable status.

The rights of individual citizens to contact and lobby their public representatives is specifically not affected by the new proposals.

Public Expenditure and Reform minister Brendan Howlin, whose Department will be responsible for the legislation, said the aim of the laws was to “rebuild public trust” in politics and public life by helping to make the political process more transparent.

He said the moves would bring “greater openness and transparency to the important process of interaction between the political and administrative systems,” and that the moves hoped to encourage this without an unnecessary burden on the part of lobby groups.

It is intended that the Standards in Public Office Commission, which already regulates spending and donations to politicians and political parties, will be the regulator to oversee the lobbying industry.

Read: Lobby groups warned over intensive lobbying of constitutional convention

More: Website needed for disclosure of lobbyists’ meetings with policy makers

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Gavan Reilly

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