Bell called to show ethical credentials

Pressure is mounting on Lord Bell to demonstrate the ethical credentials of his PR empire.

The chair of Chime Communications (which owns Bell Pottinger) was this week singled out by Labour backbencher John Grogan, as the MP prepared to table a Parliamentary motion calling for greater transparency in the industry.

Addressing a gathering of lobbyists, Grogan said there was no doubt that Chime was influential. ‘What they say, people take account of,’ he said. ‘MPs come across them day after day in a range of guises.’

But he added: ‘I would say to the likes of Tim Bell that you have a responsibility to make self-regulation work, and it’s about time you did it.’

Bell has so far resisted signing his companies up to the codes of conduct drawn up by the PRCA and lobbying body the APPC. Both bodies require agencies to reveal their clients.

But Grogan, former comms co-ordinator at Leeds Council and current MP for Selby, claimed that Bell’s stance was not supported by all Chime staff. He said: ‘There have been a lot of people from different ranks saying they wish they could be members.’

He also suggested that a select committee enquiry into lobbying was looking  likely, and that Bell might well be called to task to justify his stance.

‘It would be an interesting session with Lord Bell,’ he said.

Grogan also revealed that at least one City agency was planning to reverse its stance on non-membership.

He said: ‘I understand Finsbury are planning to join the PRCA. I hope the other leading financial public relations agencies such as Brunswick and Maitland will now follow their lead and sign up to either the APPC or PRCA codes.’

Will Tanner, partner at Finsbury, confirmed this but stressed that nothing had been finalised. He said: ‘We are talking to the PRCA with a view to joining them.’

Bell could not be reached for comment as PRWeek went to press.

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