APGs facing probe after exposé of rules breach

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has promised to investigate an alleged lack of transparency among all-party groups.

Sir Philip Mawer's pledge follows a Times investigation last Friday (13 January). Six APGs – which declared the lobbyists who provided them with administrative and financial assistance – failed to name their client, breaching parliamentary rules.

Three of the six cases involve Luther Pendragon, whose MD Simon Whale put the omissions down to 'an administrative oversight' that has since been rectified.

The Luther cases involve the APG on Patient Safety, which is supported by four pharma trade bodies, the APG on Flood Prevention  – where the client is Norwich Union – and the APG on
Intellectual Property, on behalf of the Alliance Against IP Theft.

Whale has written to Mawer, urging a number of new measures to achieve greater transparency. He said these include encouraging all APGs to have their own website, and for all written reports from APGs to state all parties to have provided financial aid.

PRCA public affairs committee chair Rod Cartwright said the trade body would also investigate evidence of misuse of APGs by its members. He added: 'Organisations of all kinds support APGs, not simply what The Times calls commercial lobbyists. Limiting debates on PA regulation to the consultancy sector is misguided.'

On Tuesday The Times exposed a loophole allowing companies to benefit from APGs without having to declare their interest. It found that Parliamentary Monitoring Services consultant Doug Smith runs the APG on Fire Safety and Rescue. Smith told The Times he did not have to declare that one of his clients was the Fire Safety and Development Group because this client did not support the APG.
There are 370 APGs, created by MPs and peers with shared interests to discuss particular issues.

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