CIPR writes to speakers of both Houses on issue of APPGs

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has published an open letter (below) to the speakers of both the House of Commons and Lords on the topic of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs).

Last week both speakers, Lord McFall and Sir Lindsay Hoyle, issued a joint letter stating that the governance surrounding APPGs is “too opaque and a reputational risk”. They called for stronger regulations and a gatekeeper to manage the establishment and management of APPGs.

In response, CIPR CEO Alastair McCapra has called for Parliament to include the public affairs industry in discussion when establishing new rules.

The CIPR’s letter highlights the important role APPGs can play in democracy but acknowledges the inconsistency between how APPGs operate and the concerns that have been raised about their governance, transparency, role, and purpose.

The CIPR has previously given evidence to the Committee on Standard’s inquiry into APPGs.

Alastair McCapra, CIPR Chief Executive

APPGs can be a valuable vehicle for raising the profile of policy issues. They are effective at bringing expert voices into Parliament and connecting them with passionate and interested parliamentarians. Recent focus on APPGs has, however, highlighted that there are inconsistencies between how the many groups operate, with concerns that they provide an unethical route for lobbying purposes or are being run for commercial gain.  

We are very happy to offer the expertise of our members, who are committed to ethical and transparent practice, to help support parliament while it is considering new approaches.

Alastair McCapra, CIPR Chief Executive

CIPR letter to the speakers the House of Commons and Lords

Dear Lord McFall and Sir Lindsay Hoyle, 

I am writing to you today following your recent letter calling for an overhaul of the management of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs).

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) takes the view that our system of APPGs is generally a force for good. The principle, that Parliamentarians can set up informal groups to explore policy issues, hear the latest industry and political developments on a subject and analyse and debate a topic in a cross-party manner, is an important one.

In most circumstances, APPGs fulfill this vital role, supporting better policy-making and acting as a conduit between Parliamentarians and the sector or issue the APPG is seeking to explore. In 2020 we worked with a number of our members to respond to the Committee on Standards inquiry into APPGs.  Many of them spoke about how APPGs have helped raise previously little-known issues and kept Parliamentarians up-to-date with key developments. Much of this would not be possible without support from outside organisations.

However, many CIPR members raised concerns about the inconsistent way APPGs operate in relation to their governance, transparency, role, and purpose. This included those being run improperly for commercial reasons. Their concerns relate not only to the damage this does to the policy-making process, but also the reputational risk to our political system and the public affairs industry; organisations who work in a proper and professional manner with APPGs do not want their reputation tarnished by those who don't.

There is therefore consensus between the public affairs industry and politicians that greater efforts are required to tackle improper APPG activity. There is much greater scope for the public affairs industry and parliamentarians to work together to ensure APPGs are run effectively and ethically, with Chairs and Officers taking more responsibility for how their APPGs are run and with public affairs professionals having clear guidelines and codes of practice to follow, set up by the parliamentary authorities. Clarity around the role of politician and public affairs practitioner in the running of APPGs would go a long way in stopping unprofessional activity.

To this end, the CIPR would be happy to work with the parliamentary authorities and we would welcome an opportunity to meet and discuss this further. We believe that, together, Parliament and the public affairs sector can create a better system that ensures APPGs support our democratic policy-making process, not tarnish it.

Kind regards,

Alastair McCapra CEO, Chartered Institute of Public Relations


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 over 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).