Anthony Cardew, one of the leading figures in the world of public relations in the City, said yesterday that he strongly supported the idea of the Bank of England and the Stock Exchange regulating his industry.
His comments, while not directed at any one firm, come in the wake of a Stock Exchange investigation, first reported in the Independent, into dealings in the shares of Caradon, the building products group, ahead of their half-year results last September.
The Exchange has, according to sources close to the investigation, listened to tape recordings of a telephone conversation about Caradon's financial performance between an employee at Robert Fleming, the investment bank, and an employee of Financial Dynamics, the company's financial public relations advisers.
The Exchange's investigation is trying to ascertain whether privileged information was passed on by the financial public relations firm to the investment bank and then whether any employee at the bank used that information for share dealing.
Robert Fleming declined to comment on the reported transaction last night and also declined to comment on reports that two employees had been asked to resign in the wake of the Exchange's investigation.
The Stock Exchange is expected to make a decision this week about whether to pass on the results of its inquiry to the Department of Trade and Industry, which could then further investigate any controversial share dealings.
Mr Cardew of Cardew & Company, whose clients include Eurotunnel, British Aerospace, Lonrho and Allied Domecq, said that he was one of a small minority of public relations consultants in the City that thought his industry needed to be more tightly regulated.
"I think it is an extremely important issue. There should be a licence granted to companies and individuals by the Bank and the Stock Exchange, backed up by a strong disciplinary code, which can be withdrawn if somebody breaches the rules. Firms like mine are constantly in receipt of confidential information and should be exposed to the same sanctions as bankers or stockbrokers."
Many in the City's public relations industry are talking about the possibility of a future Labour government tightening up and even imposing statutory regulation on their companies.