The Law Societies of England and Wales and Scotland recently submitted a joint response to the Commission consultation on the future mandatory lobbying register. The consultation was launched to gather stakeholders’ views on the key features for a lobbying register to be effective in regulating access to EU policy makers.
In our response, we support more transparency in lobbying and setting up a mandatory register. We do, however, underline the need of striking the right balance between regulating lobbying and allowing free access to elected policy makers which is a foundation of any democracy. We also stress that a mandatory register should have a proper legal basis in order to meet its objectives.
We are also in favour of lawyers being covered by the scope of the register. In fact, we point out that anyone who is engaged in lobbying activities should be required to register. However, we stress that the definition of lobbying must be clearer and more precise to allow the registrants to determine whether they should register or not. In this context, we advocate for excluding legal work from the scope of the register and ask for clarifications on when confidentiality of communications applies. We also recalled that the principle of confidentiality is a core value of the profession.
Since the existing procedure for alerts and the procedure for complaints will become even more important once the register is mandatory, we call for its major overhaul to guarantee basic procedural safeguards to the registrants. We also point out the need to set out clear rules governing the operations of the Secretariat.
The consultation response has been drafted by the Brussels Office, the working group of the Law Society of England and Wales’ EU Committee and the working group of the Law Society of Scotland.
The Commission is expected to publish the summary of the consultation responses after the summer. It is unclear when it will present its proposal for a mandatory register.