Agencies voice concern over APPC-only contracts

Two public affairs agencies claim that organisations are breaking the law if they refuse to work with agencies not signed up with the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC).

DLA Piper Global Government Affairs and The Whitehouse Consultancy have written to the Commons public administration select committee with their concerns.

Their letter comes weeks after the Met Office issued a tender notice for a public affairs agency specifying that it was 'essential' for the successful consultancy to be a member of the APPC (PRWeek, 12 April). Earlier this year, a consortium of London housing associations appointed Precise Public Affairs after an APPC-only pitch (PRWeek, 21 March).

The letter to the select committee states: 'We understand fully the Met Office's concern to ensure that it only considers tenders from organisations committed to adherence to high ethical standards. But we consider... that such behaviour, as encouraged by the APPC, is anti-competitive.

'Having taken legal advice we are strongly of the opinion that this contravenes not only government procurement guidelines but also EU directives... and as such is unlawful.'

The letter is signed by DLA Piper director Eben Black and Whitehouse Consultancy MD Chris Whitehouse.

The select committee is in the midst of an inquiry into the lobbying profession. Last month, Labour backbencher Austin Mitchell tabled an early day motion (EDM) urging the committee to reject the 'assertion that public sector contracts should go only to APPC member companies' (PRWeek, 30 May).

As PRWeek went to press, the EDM had been signed by 14 MPs.

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