Public affairs soap box: Michael Burrell, chairman, APPC

With the current hiatus on legislation to introduce a statutory lobbying register, the results of the APPC's annual members' survey are published at a perfect time to remind policy makers about the strength of support within our industry for the principle of universality when designing the new registration regime.

Michael Burrell
Michael Burrell

The survey results, published today (15 March), make encouraging reading. One hundred per cent of our membership said public affairs agencies should be covered by a statutory lobbying register: a powerful sign that the industry stands firmly behind the principle of compulsory registration.

More than 90 per cent of respondents supported the idea that in-house practitioners and freelancers should be on any new register, with support for NGOs and trade unions’ inclusion at more than 80 per cent.

More than half of our members said the reputational damage that would be caused to the lobbying industry if a statutory register did not cover all those involved in lobbying would be ‘high’.

Take note Cabinet Office: if the Government’s stated objective is, in its own words, to ‘bring more transparency to the lobbying process’ – crucially increasing public confidence in the relationships between policy makers and lobbyists – then excluding certain ‘types’ of lobbyists from a register risks being counterproductive.

When asked how the industry could best ‘maintain its reputation’, the most common response was by upholding ‘ethical standards’.

Finally, as an aside, an encouraging two out of three respondents said they described their profession as ‘lobbying’ (more than those who said ‘public affairs’ or ‘political engagement’). It has long been an issue for our industry that connotations around the word ‘lobbying’ have not always been positive. Perhaps the tide is finally turning.

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