CIPR CEO gives evidence to Political and Constitutional Reform Committee
This morning, Jane Wilson, CIPR CEO, appeared before the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee alongside Helen Johnson, Chair of the Association for Professional Political Consultants (APPC) and Francis Ingham, Chief Executive of the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), giving their views on the scope of the Government’s proposals for a statutory register of lobbyists.
Jane delivered the following opening statement:
Good morning, I am Jane Wilson, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, one of the bodies that represent the professional interests of lobbyists in the UK. Thank you for the opportunity to give our views in response to your questions today and I am very pleased to be here alongside my colleagues Francis and Helen from the PRCA and APPC.
The CIPR represents the public relations and public affairs professional. Within our membership of over 9,500 professionals we have an active group of around 700 members dedicated to public affairs, as well as smaller numbers active in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. We offer training and professional development to support careers in public affairs, including the CIPR Public Affairs Diploma, the only qualification of its kind awarded by a professional body.
Above all, we provide a code which regulates the professional conduct of our members which, along with the PRCA and APPC codes, is a cornerstone of industry self-regulation.
Our view on lobbying goes further than the Government’s description of it as a legitimate activity. We see it as an essential part of the democratic process with an important relationship to freedom of speech. However, we also accept that influencing public policy is an issue of public interest and that lobbying should be open and transparent to be better understood and accepted.
We therefore welcome the consultation in so far as the government states that it wants to introduce a register that will improve knowledge about lobbying and accountability of lobbyists.
However, the Government has expressed a preference for a register that includes only third party lobbyists, exempting, by some estimates, up to 80% of the active lobbying profession. If the aim is knowledge and accountability in the lobbying process, a register that omits in-house lobbyists would simply not achieve it.
Along with the APPC and, initially, the PRCA, the CIPR founded the UK Public Affairs Council following the original Public Administration Select Committee Report. UKPAC was founded to provide a model for a how a register could be developed and maintained independently of Government. It has achieved this, not without a learning curve that Government could benefit from heeding and is the only current attempt to provide a publicly searchable register of both individual lobbyists and employers. It was set up as a register to cover the memberships of the founding bodies, so it would need to be adapted to meet statutory requirements, but we believe it could be one option for consideration as a delivery vehicle for a statutory register, once the definition that will determine the scope of the register has been set.
There are a number of questions arising from the consultation that I am sure we will address during the committee’s questions. However, should the opportunity not arise in the rest of the session, I would like to stress that Government attempts to register lobbyists should be complementary to the industry’s structures of self-regulation. Industry codes of conduct link professional standards and professional development and are backed up by rigorous disciplinary structures which provide a process of accountability that clients, employers, members and the public can have confidence in.
A register that covers all lobbyists and provides a reasonable level of accurate information could assist in making the process of lobbying better understood. Unfortunately, the proposal in the consultation document is fundamentally flawed and I urge the Government to reconsider its proposals as part of this consultation process.
Notes to editors
About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK and overseas. The CIPR is the largest membership organisation for PR practitioners outside of North America. By size of turnover and number of individually registered members, we are the leading representative body for the PR profession and industry in Europe.
The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).