Death knell for self-regulation as lobbyists' watchdog collapses

Body representing disgraced Bell Pottinger, among others, pulls out of plans for new register

The lobbying industry's attempts to demonstrate it can regulate itself was fatally undermined yesterday after a group representing more than 300 public relations firms – including Bell Pottinger – pulled out of a newly-formed voluntary register of interests.

The Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), a third of whose members are involved in lobbying, said attempts by the industry to create a comprehensive register of all those who work in public affairs had proved a failure.

It called on ministers to quickly introduce legislation for a statutory register that could help regain public confidence.

However, its decision means there will effectively be no unified register of lobbyists in place for up to two years.

One source suggested that this could be a motivation behind the PRCA's move following a string of damaging revelations in The Independent.

An investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) discovered the lengths some lobbying firms were prepared to go to to win new business. They boasted of access to senior figures in Downing Street, ministers and MPs, and outlined the "dark arts" they used to improve interest in their clients on the internet. Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, at the centre of the controversy, is a member of the PRCA and is being investigated to see if it has broken the group's code of conduct.

Yesterday the PRCA said it was clear the UK Public Affairs Council (UKPAC), an umbrella body set up 18 months ago to clean up the industry's reputation by creating it's own voluntary register, had failed. In a letter to ministers, Francis Ingham, PRCA chief executive, said: "We have come to the reluctant conclusion that UKPAC is simply not the right vehicle to deliver the statutory register which is the Government's aim. Its register has proved incomplete, inaccurate and unreliable. As a consequence, we have today withdrawn from UKPAC."

Sally Costerton, PRCA chairman, added: "Thanks to repeated delays and inaccuracies in its work, UKPAC simply lacks the credibility and competence to meet the Government's objectives."

UKPAC chairman, Elizabeth France, admitted the organisation had struggled to get the register off the ground, but pointed out that the member organisations had given it a budget of just £60,000. "I am very surprised by the PRCA's timing," she said. "They have been aware of the problems we have been facing for some time but just at the point when we have appointed a new IT contractor to finalise the register by the end of the year they have decided to withdraw. It is now likely to be two years before any statutory register comes into being."

A spokesman for Mark Harper, the minister responsible for creating the new framework for lobbyists, said: "We will be putting forward proposals for a new statutory register of lobbyists in the next few weeks which will then go out to public consultation."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Recruitment Genius: Magento Front End Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Investigo: management accountant

£250 - £300 per day: Investigo: Growing international marketing business requi...

Recruitment Genius: ORM / Online Reputational Consultant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ORM Consultant is required t...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore