Public Affairs: Soap Box - Mark Adams, head of public affairs, Lansons Communications

When the UK Public Affairs Council was launched just over a year ago, it marked several years of determination by many people in the sector, myself included, to raise the standard of self-regulation in lobbying.

Those plucky heroes gathered to thrash out the system that would guide the industry through the years ahead, just as economists had gathered at Bretton Woods to create the post-war global monetary system.

Of course, there were critics. From those who believe lobbyists are private citizens who should be allowed to conduct their affairs in private, to those who believe that self-regulation can never work and everything that a lobbyist does should be open to public scrutiny.

In my view, both extremes are equally misguided. I was, therefore, delighted when UKPAC was launched, which I saw as a huge step forward. UKPAC is blessed with three first-class independent members and the industry representatives are fine people. However, I believe there are two fundamental problems.

First, it was a mistake to try to run UKPAC on a shoestring. An annual budget of £60,000 is farcical. As and when the Government establishes the statutory register, I would wager that the annual budget for administering it, whether by an existing or new body, will run into seven figures. We should have been prepared to spend much more to make the self-regulatory version work better.

Second, I always believed that UKPAC should be open to direct members. The restriction on membership to the three membership bodies - APPC, CIPR and PRCA - limits the effectiveness of UKPAC.

Of course, there are complications of direct membership, but they can and must be overcome. It is vital to the future of lobbying that we succeed.

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