Bell Pottinger opts for its own code of ethics

Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, singled out for criticism by Labour MP John Grogan last month, is continuing to snub the industry's code of conduct and has opted instead to develop its own ‘code of practice'.

In a letter to clients this week, chairman Peter Bingle set out the reasons why the agency refuses to join the ­Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) and ­announced that the agency was working with auditors Deloitte & Touche to draw up a code of practice that is more ‘auditable and assurable’ than the APPC’s version.

‘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,’ argued Bingle. ‘Having consulted with our auditors, we are advised that the APPC code cannot be assured by them as it is more emotional than rational.’

Chime chairman Lord Bell told PRWeek that the letter had ‘already prompted a very positive’ response from the agency’s clients.

Meanwhile, one of Chime’s top lobbyists, James O’Keefe, resigned this week as MD of Good Relations Political to set up his own agency. He played down rumours that he quit because he is opposed to Bell’s stance on the APPC.

Ten questions to be answered...

01. What does it mean for an organisation to lobby government or Parliament?

02. Which ways of seeking to influence policy and decision makers are acceptable, and which are unacceptable?

03. What evidence is there of the effect of lobbying on the policy and decision-making processes?

04. Do some organisations have more influence over Parliament and government than others?

05. Is it possible to limit lobbying and yet to ensure that government and Parliament are properly informed?

06. Are the provisions in the APPC’s and PRCA codes of conduct appropriate for a self-regulatory system? Why are some multi-client lobbyist firms not members of these associations?

07. Should lobbyists be regulated by an outside body? If so, what would the focus be? Who would enforce the regulation?

08. Are current transparency requirements on the behaviour of public officials, ministers and MPs appropriate?

09. Should government organisations lobby? If so, is it appropriate for them to use multi-client public affairs consultancies?

10. Is there anything that the UK can learn from attempts to regulate lobbying in other countries?


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