Bell Pottinger joins APPC fold after years of opposition

LONDON: Bell Pottinger Public Affairs is signaling its support for the UK Association of Professional Political Consultants' regulatory code by joining for the first time since the organization's formation in 1994.

LONDON: Bell Pottinger Public Affairs is signaling its support for the UK Association of Professional Political Consultants' regulatory code by joining for the first time since the organization's formation in 1994.

The firm has never been a member, according to APPC chairman Michael Burrell.

“Bell Pottinger is a leader in its field, and we are committed to operating to the highest standards,” said James Henderson, CEO of Bell Pottinger Private. “By joining the APPC, we are demonstrating our support for a system of appropriate regulation that is designed to reassure clients, politicians, and the public that the work we do is open, transparent, and in the interests of an efficient parliamentary democracy.”

The move follows the agency joining the UK PRCA in 2010, which meant disclosing its clients on the PRCA's public register on a quarterly basis and adhering to the PRCA's code of practice.

The codes of practice of the PRCA and the APPC both prohibit consultants from holding parliamentary passes (with some exceptions) and employing or paying MPs or sitting peers. 

Historically, Bell Pottinger Public Affairs was opposed to signing up to an external code of conduct.  

In 2007, it resisted pressure from Member of Parliament John Grogan and drew up its own code of practice with auditors Deloitte & Touche rather than join the APPC. 

BPPA chairman Peter Bingle wrote to clients at the time to say “the [APPC] code does not add anything to our own code of conduct or the requirements of our corporate behavior under the rules of the Stock Exchange, or the various codes of corporate governance on which we report annually as part of a publicly quoted company – Chime [Bell Pottinger's then parent company].”

“Having consulted with our auditors, we are advised that the APPC code cannot be assured by them as it is more emotional than rational,” he added.

The APPC claims its membership now stands at a record 79 agencies, after sign-ups from firms such as Ketchum Pleon, Message Matters, and Pagefield. 

“We are very pleased that new members continue to be attracted by our register and code of conduct,” said Burrell. “All are equally welcome, but we are particularly pleased to be joined by Bell Pottinger, since until now this had been a significant public affairs consultancy outside of our membership.”

This story originally appeared on the website of PRWeek UK, the sister publication of PRWeek at Haymarket Media.

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