Bell Pottinger joins APPC fold after years of opposition

Bell Pottinger Public Affairs is signalling its support for the Association of Professional Political Consultants' regulatory code by joining for the first time since the APPC's formation in 1994.

Bell Pottinger Private chief executive James Henderson: 'Demonstrating support for a system of appropriate regulation'
Bell Pottinger Private chief executive James Henderson: 'Demonstrating support for a system of appropriate regulation'

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

James Henderson, CEO of Bell Pottinger Private, said: ‘Bell Pottinger is a leader in its field and we are committed to operating to the highest standards. 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 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 currently prohibit consultants from holding parliamentary passes (with some exceptions) and employing or paying MPs or sitting peers.

Historically Bell Pottinger Public Affairs had been opposed to signing up to a external code of conduct.  

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

Then 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 behaviour 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 plc [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.’

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

Burrell said: ‘We are very pleased that new members continue to be attracted by our register and code of conduct. 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.’

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