Section 16(1) of the Act provides that the Standards in Public Office Commission (the Commission) may produce a Code of Conduct for persons carrying on lobbying activities “with a view to promoting high professional standards and good practices”.
Although the provisions of section 16 of the Act came into effect with the commencement of the legislation, the Commission considered it prudent to defer development of a Code of Conduct until such time as the enforcement provisions of the Act had been commenced and were working effectively. It was also considered prudent to wait until the first review of the Act had been completed in case any proposed changes to the Act arising from the review might impact on the development of the code. It was also important for the Commission, as regulator, to gain some experience of regulating lobbying activity before attempting to produce a code of conduct for persons carrying on lobbying activities. As the Act is fully commenced and the review has been completed without any new legislative proposals the Commission considered it timely to introduce a Code of Conduct.
Section 16(2) provides that before producing a Code of Conduct the Commission shall consult with persons carrying on lobbying activities and such bodies representing them, and such other persons as the Commission considers appropriate. The Commission has consulted widely on its proposed Code of Conduct. Details of the consultation process and the submissions received are set out in sections 3 and 4 of this report.
Section 16(3) provides that the Code may contain different provisions in relation to different descriptions of persons carrying on lobbying activities. The diversity and range of persons who may be captured by the scope of the Act presents a challenge in terms of defining a set of shared standards on which a code of conduct might be based. The provisions of the Act can apply to employers; to representative or advocacy bodies; to professional lobbyists or third parties who are being paid to communicate on behalf of another person; and significantly, to any person communicating about the development or zoning of land.
Given the broad scope of persons to whom the Act may apply the Commission considered that a principles based code of conduct rather than a rules based code of conduct would be more suitable. The Code is, however, rules based insofar as it refers to the requirements of the Act in relation to registering and submitting returns of lobbying activities and to the post-employment restrictions which apply to certain elected and appointed public officials.