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https://homeofficemedia.blog.gov.uk/2022/10/18/factsheet-foreign-influence-registration-scheme-firs/

Factsheet: Foreign Influence Registration Scheme (FIRS)

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New legislation will compel those acting for a foreign power or entity to declare political influencing activity – and criminalise those who do not.  For the press notice click here.

Overview

  • Introduced to the National Security Bill by Government amendment – Commons Committee consideration of the amendment due Tuesday 18 October.
  • Is intended to strengthen the resilience of the UK political system against covert foreign influence and provide greater assurance around the activities of foreign powers or entities where they are specified through regulations.
  • The scheme contains two sets of requirements:
    • Primary registration requirements. Will require registration where political influence activities are to be carried out at the direction of a foreign power or foreign entity (an ‘arrangement’); or to be carried out by a foreign entity. Will apply to all foreign powers except Ireland.
    • Enhanced registration requirements. Will require registration where a wider set of activities are to be carried out at the direction of a specified foreign power, part of a foreign power, or entity subject to foreign power control (an ‘arrangement’); or to be carried out by such an entity. A foreign power/entity can only be specified to protect safety or interests of the UK.
  • Public register will exist on a government website for political influence activities registered (wider activities may be published where enhanced requirements used).
  • Complying with obligations supports UK resilience through transparency.
  • Offences of failing to comply with obligations under the scheme may result in a custodial penalty – maximum 2 years for primary and 5 years for enhanced.
  • Royal Assent anticipated early 2023 but scheme will require time to implement.
  • Follows precedents of the U.S. (Foreign Agent Registration Act) and Australia (Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme).

Registration

  • No fee for registration and companies/organisations will be responsible for registration rather than their employees or staff.
  • Online process will require information about those party to an arrangement, as well as a description of the arrangement or types of activities to be undertaken.
  • Process must be completed within 10 days of an arrangement being made, or otherwise before activities are carried out.

Exemptions and protections will apply to:

  • Persons with privileges and immunities and employees of foreign powers.
  • Family members part of a household of diplomatic and consular staff.
  • Provision of legal services.
  • Recognised news publishers (RNPs) and those in arrangements with RNPs to publish news-related material – primary requirements only.
  • Protected material (legal professional privilege or confidential journalistic).
  • Arrangements and agreements which the UK Government is party to.
  • Provision of essential services to a diplomatic mission or consulate (e.g. catering or building services) – enhanced requirements only

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