Soap Box: Elizabeth France, chairman, UK Public Affairs Council

Creating a register of lobbyists is not a straightforward issue, but the UK Public Affairs Council remains the answer.

Elizabeth France: UKPAC chairman
Elizabeth France: UKPAC chairman

The Government must stay open to all those who want to share the ideas, preferences and information that are important to sound and well-informed decisions. At the same time, there must be public confidence that lobbying is conducted openly and in line with agreed standards of behaviour.

That is why UKPAC supports a statutory register of lobbyists held by an independent body to ensure transparency.

Based on a broadly drawn definition, it should cover anyone who lobbies regardless of the nature of the body that employs them. UKPAC strongly argues that there must then be a link to enforceable standards.

When the APPC, CIPR and PRCA came together, they agreed overarching guiding principles of behaviour, a common definition of lobbying and the oversight of their self-regulation through the UKPAC.

As a voluntary scheme it has limitations, but it can pioneer a way forward, act as a pilot for Government to show where the problems lie and offer itself as the vehicle for future development.

Our work is coming to fruition.

We will launch an improved register early in the New Year. We are confident it will deliver accurate timely information.

We have future-proofed the format so we can accommodate new registrants and offer a model that could be further developed to deliver a universal register under any statutory framework.

It is difficult to understand why the PRCA has resigned from UKPAC at this time when we all seem to share the same ambition - a universal register with statutory backing delivered by an independent body. I will be working with the other members of UKPAC to ensure we can deliver a register that matches their vision and anticipates many of the Government's expectations.

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