Lobbying self-regulator plans to tighten rules on government roles

The lobbying industry self-regulator is planning to tighten rules on transparency and the use of privileged information by employees of lobbying consultancies who take on roles with the Government, PRWeek understands.

Amendments to the Public Affairs Code have been tabled for discussion at a Public Affairs Board meeting next week.

These include further clarity about the use of privileged information for employees of public affairs firms who also serve in advisory roles with the government, bringing them into line with rules governing sitting MPs, members of the House of Lords and others in elected positions.

PRWeek understands the amendments were drafted following recent concerns about public affairs employees providing advice to the government, including a complaint under the Public Affairs Board code against Portland, which was subsequently dropped.

Although there are rules in place that prohibit registered lobbyists from working in various governmental and parliamentary roles, it has been suggested these need to be tightened up.

“The aim is to clarify any grey areas that may arise when an employee of a public affairs firm is advising the government, even if it is unpaid,” said Gavin Devine, founder of Park Street Partners and member of the Public Affairs Board executive committee.

“If the amendments are agreed, anyone from a company covered by the code who takes on an advisory role will need to declare that publicly and notify the Public Affairs Board. I don’t believe communicators should be prevented from helping the government out, particularly in a crisis, but it needs to be transparent.”

Recent stories about potential breaches of the code have created perception issues about lobbying firm employees using privileged access to advise clients about government decisions.

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