Association of Professional Political Consultants

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The Association of Professional Political Consultants (also known as the APPC) is a lobby group for the lobbying profession. It describes itself as "the self-regulatory body for UK public affairs professionals in the consultancy sector"[1] Its main function is to prevent openness and transparency by attempting to ensure that statutory regulation is not introduced in the UK. To this end, APPC worked alongside the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and Public Relations Consultants Association in the formation of an umbrella organisation to promote self-regulation in the industry: the UK Public Affairs Council, launched in July 2010. APPC has a Scottish branch - APPC Scotland.

Twenty-pound-notes.jpg This article is part of the Lobbying Portal, a sunlight project from Spinwatch.

History

1994, Cash for Questions

The APPC was established by five consultancies in May 1994 under the chairmanship of Andrew Gifford, founding director of lobbying firm GJW.[2] The Association was set up in response to the "cash for questions" scandal involving the consultancy firm Ian Greer Associates.[3] At the centre of the scandal was Mohamed al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods, who retained Ian Greer Associates to lobby in his interests. This involved a fee of £50,000, in addition to which Al-Fayed paid for certain MPs to ask questions on his behalf at Prime Ministers Questions - at a price of £2,000 per question. The two MPs who asked questions on Al-fayed's behalf were Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith, asking a total of 22 questions in Al-Fayed's interests. Greer famously said to Al-Fayed, regarding his feud with Roland "tiny" Rowland over the sale of the House of Fraser, "You need to rent an MP just like you rent a London taxi".[4]

The affair forced the consultancy industry to address previously unattended issues and make the necessary changes to, in the words of the APPC, "reassure Parliament, Whitehall and the public about its ethical standards". Accordingly, the newly formed APPC set its members a code of conduct and has a complete ban on any financial relationships with MPs.[5]

The code of conduct In 1994, four directors of Westminster Communications - including Liberal Democrat MP Menzies Campbell and Labour MP Ann Taylor - were required to stand down from the board to comply with APPC rules.[6] In February 1998, GPC Market Access added Liberal Democrat peer Lord Dick Taverne to GPC staff when it took over the lobbying company at which he was director - Prima Europe. Unlike GPC, Prima was not a member of the APPC. Although the Association rules would have permitted Prima to remain a separate entity from the parent company,[7] Taverne instead resigned from the agency.[8]

1995, Secret Register

In November 1995 PR Week UK reported that despite having purportedly "captured the moral high ground" by setting up its own register of lobbyists, the APPC remained "coy" about revealing the contents of the register. During the making of a Channel 4 Dispatches programme on peers and their outside interests, Observer Films attempted to gain access to the register - and were duly informed that the contents were not open to the public. This was confirmed by APPC Secretary and managing director of lobbying firm Public Policy Unit, Charles Miller, who explained that the register was only available to MPs, Peers, APPC members and their clients: "it does not exist to feed salacious stories in the media". However, this position was not uniformly agreed upon within the industry. Michael Burrell of Westminster Strategy, one of the founders of the APPC, remarked that "We were trying to promote greater transparency and disclosure. My view is the register should be made available to journalists". Miller responded:

If other members feel like Michael, I dare say we will open it up... we are going to have think very carefully about way the clients are listed at present - it’s too easily misinterpreted".[9]

In March 1996, the APPC announced that it would move to publishing its previously annual register of membership twice yearly. Additionally, whereas the register could previously only be accessed via the Association offices in Rochester Row, it was now to be available by post. Michael Burrell remarked that "Some members felt that yearly publication meant the register was too historic".[10] Later that year, the APPC announced that it would be extending its code of conduct to ban its members from having financial links with sitting peers and MEPs, as well as MPs and public servants. Members were also explicitly prohibited from making contributions to political parties. The Association was also reportedly "stepping up its marketing efforts"; investigating the creation of "developing a new visual identity" and creating an online presence.[11]

1997, First complaint

The APPC received its first formal complaint in July 1997 - levelled against its own secretary Charles Miller. The complainant, the housing association Anchor Trust, was a client of Miller's lobbying agency, the Public Policy Unit. They accused him of 'client betrayal', based on an article he had written in a trade magazine in which he criticised the campaign of an apparently hypothetical housing association. Miller defended the piece, stating "It was written in a private capacity. It wasn’t about them. It was about much wider issues".[12]

In March 1998, the APPC set out to review its sponsorship rules to consider allowing the sponsorship of political events by lobbyists' clients. Although the existing rule prohibited members from causing a client to give financial incentives to public servants (or persons acting on their behalf), representatives or employees of Parliament; except for entertainment and token business mementos, APPC secretary Charles Miller nonetheless remarked:

We’ve all broken that rule. If approached by Government, lobbyists should be able to ask their clients whether they are interested, but they can’t push anybody - a lobbyist’s first duty is to the client... Labour is increasingly wooing business directly through the party’s business unit and not through lobbyists anyway.[13]

Later that year, the APPC came out in support of a single lobbyists code, despite traditionally opposing the idea of running a joint code with the Institute of Public Relations (IPR, now Chartered Institute of Public Relations) and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA). The APPC had previously resisted closer association with the PR industry, holding lobbying to be a distinct industry. The PRCA, however, also represents full service agencies such as Hill and Knowlton and Burson-Marsteller which run large lobbying operations - and are not members of the APPC.[14]

1998, Lobbygate

In 1998, The Observer accused three consultancies - two of them members of the APPC - of unethical behaviour, following an investigative sting by the newspaper. As a result, an inquiry was set up by the APPC. Conducted by a former head of the Home Civil Service and a leading barrister, the inquiry made a series of recommendations with the aim of creating a "culture of compliance" within the membership; prompting APPC 2006 Management Committee member Michael Burrell to conclude that:

Partly as a result – and while there will never be room for complacency – one could reasonably claim that the professional political consultancy business in the UK today has one of the best ethical track records of any in the world.[15]

2005, Another day, another "grey area": member firms belonging to larger PR groups

In November 2005, it emerged that Labour MP David Blunkett was paid £15,000 by APPC members Weber Shandwick to speak at a dinner hosted by the agency. The APPC code states that it is against the rules for their members to "make any award or payment to any MP, MEP or sitting peer". However, while the lobbying arm of Weber Shandwick is a member of the APPC, its corporate practice - which paid for Blunkett to speak - is not, and therefore the rules were not officially breached. This prompted the APPC to review their code and address "the grey area" regarding member agencies which are part of large PR groups. Weber Shandwick CEO Colin Byrne defended the payment, saying "There is nothing wrong with MPs being paid for after-dinner speeches if they abide by parliamentary rules".[16]

2007, Non-members' use of the Code of Conduct for competitive advantage

The APPC was forced to tighten up its code of conduct again in March 2007. Although disclosure of clients and consultants is a condition of APPC membership, the original code of conduct failed to include a clear requirement for this information. Gill Morris, then association chair of the APPC, remarked that "This is an important development for the APPC and will promote greater transparency and clarity in the PA sector". The changes were made after it emerged that lobbying firms were assuring potential clients that they adhere to the code - without actually being members of the APPC itself. The alarm was raised by Labour MP John Grogan, who later published an Early Day Motion (EDM) on lobbying, when he discovered that non-APPC agencies were telling clients that they adhere to the code, without being prepared to disclose their list of clients. Several recent tenders for consultancy firms had required adherence to the code, but not membership of the APPC, such that Bell Pottinger Public Affairs (at that point not registered with the APPC) were able to compete with Connect Public Affairs (a member) for its account with Thames Gateway London Partnership, on the grounds that both agencies followed the general principles set out in the code.[17]

2015, Endorsement of Scottish lobbying draft bill

On 30 October 2015, the Scottish government in Holyrood published the drafted details of its lobbying bill, which is set to include a code of conduct and a register for the industry. While some big industry players like the PRCA and some prominent campaigners like Unlock Democracy and The Electoral Reform Society of Scotland have dismissed the bill as piecemeal and watered-down, the APPC instead welcomes the bill in its current form, as their chairman Peter Duncan explains:

'We welcome the publication of this Bill which will look to be a much more sustainable basis for final legislation than the legislation implemented in Westminster last year. Professional lobbyists embrace greater transparency, indeed that was the founding principle of APPC's formation. APPC is very clear that lobbying is an essential part of the democratic process, not a threat to it. We welcome the Scottish Government's starting point for legislation - that lobbying is central to the working of a successful Parliament. We welcome the level playing field approach being pursued, although retain some very specific and significant concerns about the detail of the legislation published today.' [18]

Key Roles

The APPC has set itself out three main roles: "To ensure transparency and openness by maintaining a register of political consultants, to enforce high standards by requiring members to adhere to a code of conduct and to promote understanding of the public affairs sector, and the contribution made by political consultants to a properly functioning democracy, amongst politicians, the media and others".[19]

Role in the UK Public Affairs Council

The APPC was subject to criticism from within the public affairs industry for failing to provide a centrally co-ordinated response to reputational damage during the March 2010 Sunday Times/Dispatches exposé on lobbying under Labour. Peter Bingle, Chairman of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, remarked:

Those of us in the public affairs industry need to go on to the front foot and remind politicians, journalists and our critics that what we do is fundamental to the health of the body politic ... Where has the APPC (Association of Professional Political Consultants) been? Perhaps I missed it.[20]

APPC Chair Robbie MacDuff responded emphasising that the role of the APPC was one of "a self-regulatory body, not a representative body"; adding that should plans for a public affairs council be realised, then this could be called upon to speak on behalf on the industry.[20]

In an attempt to subvert calls for a statutory register of lobbyists in the UK, the APPC joined forces with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) to establish an umbrella organisation aimed to promote the continued self-regulation of lobbying in the UK. The UK Public Affairs Council (UKPAC) was launched in July 2010 amid pledges by the new Coalition Government to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists in the wake of the 'Politicians for Hire' scandal. Although the Conservatives had initially expressed support for self-regulation, the establishment of a statutory register became one of the concessions to Liberal Democrat policy espoused in the Coalition agreements.[21]

People

Management Committee March 2015

Management Committee August 2010

Management Committee October 2009

Management Committee January 2007

Membership register

Member organisations in August 2010 (63 in total):[23]

Advocate Policy & Public Affairs | APCO Worldwide Limited | Atherton Associates | B2L Public Affairs | BayMor Solutions | Bellenden Public Affairs | Blue Rubicon | Burson Marsteller | Butler Kelly Ltd | Cavendish Communications | Chambre Public Affairs | Champollion | Cherton Enterprise | Cicero Consulting | Citigate Dewe Rogerson | Cogitamus | College Public Policy | Communique | Connect Public Affairs | DJH Associates | EPPA (UK) | Edelman | EUK Consulting Ltd | Euro RSCG Apex | Fishburn Hedges | Fleishman-Hillard | Foresight Consulting | Four Communications | Freshwater Public Affairs | Gardant | Grayling Political Strategy | Green Issues | Greenhaus Communications | Hanover Communications | Heathcroft Communications | Helen Johnson Public Affairs | Hill & Knowlton | Illiam Costain McCade | Insight Public Affairs | Interel Consulting UK (formerly Political International) | JMC Partners LLP | Lansons PA | Lexington Communications | Luther Pendragon | Mandate Communications | Munro & Forster | New Consensus Communications | Open Road | PLMR | Political Developments | Political Intelligence | Politics Direct | Portland | Positif Politics | PPS Group | Precise Public Affairs | Quiller Consultants | Rosemary Grogan | Sovereign Strategy | Stratagem - NI | Tetra Strategy | Weber Shandwick Public Affairs | The Whitehouse Consultancy

Member organisations in 2009:[24]

Advocate Policy & Public Affairs | APCO Worldwide Limited | Atherton Associates | B2L Public Affairs | Bellenden Public Affairs | Blue Rubicon | Burson Marsteller | Butler Kelly Ltd | Cavendish Communications | Chambre Public Affairs | Champollion | Cherton Enterprise | Cicero Consulting | Citigate Dewe Rogerson | Cogitamus | College Public Policy | Communique | Connect Public Affairs | DJH Associates | EPPA (UK) | Edelman | EUK Consulting Ltd | Euro RSCG Apex | FD Public Affairs | Fishburn Hedges | Fleishman-Hillard | Foresight Consulting | Four Communications | Gardant | Grayling Political Strategy | Green Issues | Greenhaus Communications | Hanover Communications | Helen Johnson Public Affairs | Hill & Knowlton | Illiam Costain McCade | Insight Public Affairs | JMC Partners LLP | Lansons PA | Lexington Communications | Mandate Communications | Munro & Forster | New Consensus Communications | Open Road | PLMR | Political Developments | Political Intelligence | Politics Direct | Politics International | Portland | Positif Politics | PPS Group | Precise Public Affairs | Quintus Public Affairs Ltd | Sovereign Strategy | Stratagem - NI | Tetra Strategy | The Waterfront Partnership | Weber Shandwick Public Affairs | The Whitehouse Consultancy

Member organisations in December 2006:

Advocate Policy & Public Affairs | APCO UK | AS Biss & Co | Burson Marsteller | Chambre Public Affairs | Cherton Enterprise | Cicero Consulting | Citigate Public Affairs | College Public Policy | Connect Public Affairs | Consolidated | DJH Associates | EPPA (UK) | Edelman | EUK Consulting Ltd | Fishburn Hedges | Fleishman-Hillard | Foresight Communications | Four Communications | Outlook Public Affairs Ltd | Grayling Political Strategy | Greenhaus Communications | Helen Johnson Public Affairs | Hill & Knowlton | Lansons PA | LLM Communications | Lexington Communications | Morgan Allen Moore | Precise Public Affairs | The Policy Partnership | PPS Group | Politics International | Portland | Quintus Public Affairs Ltd | Stratagem - NI | The Waterfront Partnership | Weber Shandwick Public Affairs | The Whitehouse Consultancy


Contact, Resources, Notes

Contact

Address: APPC Secretary
Association of Professional Political Consultants
The Registry
Royal Mint Court
London EC3N 4QN
Website:http://www.appc.org.uk/

Resources

APPC Registers

Notes

  1. APPCAssociation of Professional Political Consultants(accessed 08 Febuary 2010)
  2. Steve Bevan, "PROFILE: Andrew Gifford, GJW; Charmer with political clout", PR Week UK, 08.03.96, accessed 10.09.10
  3. Michael Burrell, "History of lobbying & of the APPC", APPC, accessed 10.09.10
  4. David Hencke, Tory MPs were paid to plant questions says Harrods chief, The Guardian, 20.10.94, accessed 24.04.10)
  5. Michael Burrell, "History of lobbying & of the APPC", APPC, accessed 10.09.10
  6. Juliette Garside, "APPC faces questions over sitting peers rule"PR Week UK, 20.02.98, accessed 10.09.10
  7. Juliette Garside, "APPC faces questions over sitting peers rule"PR Week UK, 20.02.98, accessed 10.09.10
  8. Jemimah Bailey, "Lord Taverne leaves Prima in merger", PR Week UK, 03.04.98, accessed 10.09.10
  9. Staff writers, "DIARY: APPC is coy about revealing register", PR Week UK, 10.11.95, accessed 10.09.10
  10. Staff writers, "DIARY: APPC moves towards easy register access", PR Week UK, 15.03.96, accessed 10.09.10
  11. Rebecca Dowman, "NEWS: APPC takes action to maintain integrity ", PR Week UK, 25.10.96, accessed 10.09.10
  12. Juliette Garside, "Anchor Trust accuses Miller of ’client betrayal’", PR Week UK, 18.07.97, accessed 10.09.10
  13. Sophie Barker, "APPC reviews sponsorship rules", PR Week UK, 27.03.98, accessed 10.09.10
  14. Sophie Barker, "APPC lends support to single lobbyists code" PR Week UK]], 17.07.98, accessed 10.09.10
  15. Michael Burrell, "History of lobbying & of the APPC", APPC, accessed 10.09.10
  16. Ravi Chandiramani, "APPC to toughen code of practice", PR Week UK, 10.11.05, accessed 10.09.10
  17. David Singleton, "APPC writes disclosure requirement into Code"PR Week UK, 14.03.07, accessed 10.09.10
  18. APPC Scotland submission on lobbying transparency billAPPC.org, accessed 2 November 2015
  19. Michael Burrell, "History of lobbying & of the APPC", APPC, accessed 10.09.10
  20. 20.0 20.1 David Singleton, "Lobbyists in frantic bid to save industry reputation", PR Week UK, 26.03.10
  21. Ian Hall, "Majority of lobbyists now favour statutory register, industry poll reveals", Public Affairs News, 02.06.10, accessed 25.08.10
  22. APPC Who we are, accessed 23 March 2015
  23. APPC, "Membership", APPC website, accessed 26 August 2010.
  24. APPC, "About us", APPC website, accessed 6 October 2009.

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