APPC to toughen code of practice

The lobbying industry’s regulatory body is reviewing its code of conduct after revelations that fallen cabinet minister David Blunkett was paid by Weber Shandwick to speak at a dinner convened by the agency.

The Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) wants to remove any hint of sleaze attached to public affairs. Its code states member firms, which include WS, must not 'make any award or payment to any MP, MEP or sitting peer'.

Although WS's public affairs arm is a member of the APPC, the £15,000 payment to Blunkett to speak on 15 March (then just an MP) came from its corporate practice – so WS was not technically in breach of the code.

APPC chair Gill Morris said it had decided to 'review the grey area' over member consultancies that are part of big PR groups.

Blunkett was introduced to Tariq and Lucy Siddiqi of DNA Bioscience, the firm at the centre of his downfall, at the dinner. He declared the WS payment last week prior to resigning.

WS UK & Ireland CEO Colin Byrne said: 'There is nothing wrong with MPs being paid for after-dinner speeches if they abide by parliamentary rules.'

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