This morning The Times highlighted the role of major firms, including BT and Google, in funding APPGs. The article suggested the situation constituted a 'lobbying free-for-all' and highlighted the access granted to such companies to Westminster events or even gaining input into the drafting of policy reports.
The Times also alleged that some of the groups might be in breach of parliamentary rules for failing to declare financial and secretarial support.
PRCA CEO Francis Ingham has defended the role of ‘outside support’ for APPGs, but emphasised the PRCA's insistence that members declare support for such groups.
While Ingham did not condone ‘outside parties’ hiding their involvement, he highlighted the ‘valuable function’ APPGs play in offering parliamentarians access to expert insight.
‘Because of a lack of resourcing from the parliamentary authorities, APPGs frequently rely on outside support in order to function,’ he said.
‘This is no bad thing, so long as such support is provided on a no-strings-attached basis, and is transparent.’
All Party Parliamentary Groups consist of members from both the House of Lords and House of Commons and regularly meet to discuss particular subjects.
The Times reported that such groups receive a total of more than £1m a year from outside organisations, citing funding of £190,000 provided to The Associate Parliamentary Health Group by companies including Pfizer as an example.
It also stated that some of the APPGs had disclosed the names of lobbyists who had given assistance, but not which clients were funding their activities.
Phil Morgan, CIPR director of policy and comms, said that rules around the declaration of outside involvement had to be addressed by Parliament through the APPG register.
He defended the role of APPGs, as long as there was transparency and information around the involvement of outside groups was publicly available.
Morgan said: ‘MPs and policymakers should have contact with organisations of interest impacted by Government regulation. Those organisations, which include groups like charities, have a right to a voice in the democratic process.’
The Government is expected to release proposals for a statutory register of lobbyists this year.
Speaking on behalf of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), CEO of Connect Communications Gill Morris called for 'comprehensive' draft register proposals to be unveiled soon to boost public confidence.
Of APPGs, she added: ‘Many All-Party Groups receive financial and material support from outside bodies: it is a very well-established system that enables MPs to become more involved in issues that interest them without costing the taxpayer millions of pounds in administrative costs every year. The fact that hundreds of MPs participate in these groups each year shows just how valuable they are.’