Questions raised over kitemark plan

New plans to inject transparency in to the lobbying industry have met with instant opposition from public affairs agencies outside of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC).

DLA Piper and Bell Pottinger have both hit out at proposals to award a ‘kitemark’ to those agencies that demonstrate commitment to transparent behaviour.

 

The plans have been drawn up by a working party comprising senior figures from the APPC, CIPR and PRCA in a bid to fend off external regulation.

 

The working party wants to establish a single umbrella group for all lobbyists, provisionally called the Public Affairs Council [PAC]. All lobbyists signing up would adopt a kitemark.

 

PRWeek revealed the kitemark scheme was being mooted two weeks ago (PRWeek, 1 May), but the plans were only published this week.

 

A consultation paper suggests that ‘demonstrating compliance with the PAC’s requirements will enable those organisations which are compliant to adopt an agreed badge or kite mark.’

 

It adds that: ‘Organisations not kitemarked could be presumed not to be compliant with [ethical] standards. Those seeking to use the services of a lobbyist could be guided accordingly.’

 

The proposals are a response to a select committee report calling for greater transparency in lobbying (PRWeek, 9 January).

 

DLA Piper director Eben Black said: ‘We don’t think is a satisfactory response. It is anti-competitive and looks like regulation on the cheap.’ Black said that DLA Piper was constrained by the Solicitors Regulation Authority code and favoured a statutory register of lobbyists.

 

Bell Pottinger Public Affairs chair Peter Bingle also came out against the plan, saying: ‘At a time when the Government has its own problems, the public affairs industry would do well to keep its counsel to itself and focus on long-term solutions.’

 

But Foresight Consulting MD Mark Adams, who is overseeing the council’s work, stressed the kitemark was one of a number of ideas up for discussion. He said: ‘If anyone has a good reason why it’s not the way forward we’d be keen to hear it. The last thing we want to do is put up barriers to peoples’ democratic right to lobby.’

 

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