CIPR writes to public affairs members confirming position on lobbyists acting as government advisors


The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has written to all its members working in Public Affairs about professional lobbyists also acting as government advisors.

CIPR statement from CEO, Alastair McCapra

Media stories of professional lobbyists acting as government advisors have resulted in understandable public disquiet. The public are concerned about whether lobbyists in these roles are acting unethically by providing their clients with access to privileged or confidential information on government policy plans, or by actively working to benefit their clients while advising the government.

These concerns around conflicts of interest are not new but have re-emerged over recent months as, in an attempt to respond rapidly to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has appointed public affairs practitioners to advisory roles. Appointments of this nature do nothing to build trust or confidence in our political institutions or our industry.

The vast majority of lobbyists act honestly and ethically and play an important part in the democratic process. However, in light of these recent incidents, we would like to remind all CIPR members and those who have signed the voluntary UK Lobbying Register (UKLR) that you are bound by our code of conduct which requires you to "deal honestly and fairly in business with employers, employees, clients, fellow professionals, other professions and the public" and "uphold the reputation of, and do nothing that would bring into disrepute, the public relations profession".

To comply with the code of conduct means to avoid actual or perceived conflicts of interest. Therefore, CIPR members and UKLR signatories must not act as advisors in the public sector, whether in a paid or voluntary capacity, at the same time as working for private or third sector clients or employers. Anyone found in breach of this rule may find themselves the subject of a complaint and investigation by our independent Professional Standards Panel, which could result in the termination of membership.

We appreciate the reputational damage these stories can do to the lobbying industry and how they can impact the work of CIPR professional lobbyist members who behave ethically and adhere to the Code of Conduct. The CIPR has been actively defending the integral role ethical Public Affairs plays in the UK’s policy-making process, as you may have seen on our newsroom or in The Sunday Times on 22nd November, and we will continue to stand up for the industry and campaign for ethical lobbying going forward.

All members of the CIPR have access to our ethics hotline which is an anonymous advice service to help people who feel they are being asked to something unethical or have witnessed unethical behaviour. I remind you that all CIPR members involved in lobbying are required as a condition of their CIPR membership to place themselves on the UK Lobbying Register, regardless of whether they are also required to register with ORCL or not.

If you have any concerns or queries about this important issue, please don’t hesitate to contact the CIPR ‘s Regulatory Consultant."


About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations

Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the world's only Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners with nearly 10,000 members.

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).