GPC Market Access
GPC Market Access Group Ltd was a Brussels-based PR and government lobbying firm and the centre of the 'cash-for-access' LobbyGate scandal. Its employee, Derek Draper, hit the headlines in 1998 for allegedly offering companies access to high-level cabinet ministers.
At the time, GPC was owned by Countrywide Porter Novelli (part of the Omnicom Group). GPC's parent company, GPC International, merged with Omnicom's Fleishman-Hillard International Communications in 2001, and now operates as the Fleishman-Hillard public affairs brand outside the United States. In March 1998 prior to the Lobbygate story breaking GPC took over the lobbying firm Prima Europe, set up by Roger Liddle (who went on to beome an advisor to Tony Blair at Downing Street and was central to the Lobbygate allegations. Liddle later turned up as Peter Mandelson's Chef De Cabinet when Mandelson became a European Commissioner).
In February 1998, GPC Market Access came into conflict with the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) over the rules set out in its code of conduct. The Association rules prohibit members from employing sitting peers. GPC Market Access, however, added Liberal Democrat peer Lord Dick Taverne to GPC staff when they were involved in a takeover of the lobbying company at which he is director - Prima Europe. Unlike GPC, Prima is not a member of the APPC. Three options were apparently available to rectify the conflict: Prima could remain a separate entity to its parent company; Taverne could resign from the House of Lords; or for the new joint company to leave the APPC. APPC secretary Charles Miller commented:
- We may come to a British compromise, but it’s misleading to speculate. I think people would interpret changing our code as a backward move but we don’t want to lose law-abiding members either.
A fourth option - for Taverne to resign his position at Prima - was chosen. He reportedly "worked for Prima on a part-time basis and had been meaning to retire from consultancy to pursue other interests".
- "Fresh questions in lobbyist row ", BBC, July 11, 1998.
- HM Government, Answers to Questions, Hansard, 13 July 1998.
- Fleishman-Hillard International Communications, GPC International joins Fleishman-Hillard family of companies (news release), January 23, 2001