Met Office ignites a storm

Pressure from Conservative MP puts brakes on controversial APPC-only pitch process.

Controversy: Met pitch process
Controversy: Met pitch process

The Met Office is putting a controversial pitch process on ice following pressure from Conservative MP Peter Luff.

The government-funded body caused a stir earlier this year by saying it was only prepared to work with agencies that were members of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC).

But Luff is urging the Met Office to scrap its plans and is due to meet with Met Office chief adviser to government Phil Evans next month to discuss the issue.

Met Office media and public affairs manager Adrian Thomas confirmed that the plans for an APPC-only pitch had been put on hold as a result. 'The pitch process has been delayed out of courtesy to Peter Luff,' said Thomas.

Luff, chairman of the Commons business and enterprise select committee, told PRWeek: 'I am very clear that it is completely wrong for government bodies or departments to impose these kind of restrictive practices on people who are bidding for contracts.'

He said he would use his meeting with the Met Office next month to persuade it to go down the route of 'free and open competition' and to prevent other organisations from holding APPC-only pitches. 'I am hoping we will stop any other government body from doing this ever again,' he said.

The Met Office's recently issued tender notice specified that it was 'essential' for the successful consultancy to be a member of the APPC.

This week, the Met Office reacted to the furore by insisting that the tender notice did not represent a fundamental shift in its approach to selecting public affairs agencies.

'Our tender brief did indeed stipulate that APPC membership is essential, but only in the case of this particular rather specialist project and not in any sense because it is Met Office policy,' said Thomas.

Luff's intervention follows claims that organisations could be breaking the law if they refused to work with agencies not signed up with the APPC. DLA Piper Global Government Affairs and The Whitehouse Consultancy have written to the Commons public administration select committee with their concerns.

Earlier this year, a consortium of London housing associations appointed Precise Public Affairs after an APPC-only pitch.

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