APPC chair offers an olive branch to PRCA merger opponents
Paul Bristow has sent out a letter to APPC members in the wake of the merger verdict.
The chair of the APPC has written to members pledging that he will now consider an in-depth ‘strategy review paper’ written by a key opponent of the APPC-PRCA merger.
The paper was commissioned by the APPC management committee and based on interviews with 45 senior lobbyists. It was written this summer by former deputy chair Emily Wallace, who went on the head up the Campaign for an Independent APPC.
According to the campaign, the report “showed strong support among members for maintaining the APPC as an independent specialist body and produced constructive ideas to further strengthen the work that we do”.
However, the paper was immediately put on the backburner when the APPC decided to push ahead with plans for a merger with PRCA, sparking outrage from some members.
Following the merger vote on Monday evening, APPC chairman Paul Bristow has now sought to make amends. In a letter sent to APPC members and passed to PAN, he said the recommendations would be looked at by members of the new PRCA public affairs board which will replace the APPC management committee.
"I wanted to reassure all of you - especially those who supported the campaign for an independent APPC - that another priority moving forward will be to consider the recommendations of APPC's strategic review," he wrote.
He added: "It is my intention that the APPC's leadership team must now sit down and map out our future with PRCA. The strategic review will form a key part of this and of course we will engage and update members as we do so."
In response, Wallace said that this was the right approach. She said: “Of course the APPC should properly consider the Strategic Review undertaken earlier this year – it was the most substantial consultation of members in the APPC’s history, involved one to one discussions with nearly half the membership, was conducted entirely professionally and reflects the views and ideas of members about how best to improve the APPC.”
The review said the APPC should do more to “enforce” and support compliance processes within member companies and work to “change perceptions of lobbying and lobbyists in the UK”. It should also improve its training offer, develop an “ambitious communications strategy” and an “an education programme” to promote the code of conduct, the review advised.
APPC members backed the PRCA merger at an extraordinary general meeting this week, with 57% of voting member organisations getting behind the plan. The APPC management committee will hold its final meeting next week to discuss the formal process of merger, which must happen by 1 November 2018.
BRISTOW'S LETTER IN FULL
Dear APPC member
As I'm sure you are by now aware, following Monday night's vote, the APPC will be merging with the PRCA. This is an exciting moment for the APPC, the PRCA and the entire public affairs industry. It presents us with a huge opportunity to increase our influence, to widen compliance with our Code of Conduct and to provide a higher-quality offering to our members. As the City AM headline described it this morning, 'Merger gives life to super lobbyist group'. I could not have put it better myself.
By teaming up with the PRCA we will benefit from its superior resources, and at the same time we will remain a distinct and independent voice that will carry even greater authority in our external engagement (the number of members compliant with our Code will instantly increase from 76 now to over 130 post-merger). The APPC has been a beacon of transparency and best-practice for almost a quarter of a century. I anticipate that, as part of the PRCA family, the APPC will continue to push for the highest standards for lobbyists and will continue be a champion for everything that is good about our industry.
Over the last two months the entire lobbying industry has had a vigorous debate about the best way forward - to remain independent or join forces with the PRCA. I want to pay tribute to the people of both opinions who devoted considerable time and effort to ensuring that all members were aware of the pros and cons. The team who led the camapign for an independent APPC released a statement in the wake of Monday's vote which I would encourage you to read HERE and I would like to say a word about the importance of some of the things that they campaigned for.
Firstly, on process: it's very clear that engagement with our membership is something that we can and must do better. Some people felt like there was not enough time to debate and discuss the proposed merger. Whilst I believe that the last two months has given us an adequate opportunity to fully assess the merits of both options, I do want to reassure all members that I have heard you loud and clear: as we join forces with the PRCA and evaluate how the APPC can do things better I will ensure that we engage and consult you - our members - fully on all the key changes that will affect you and the structure of the APPC.
Also, I hope that one thing which comes out of recent months is greater member engagement in APPC governance itself. It would be fantastic - when we next elect members to the soon-to-be-created Public Affairs Board (which will supercede the Management Committee) - if we have a truly competitive contest and attract new people into our leadership team. It's you - our members - who make the APPC what it is and I hope that many of you will think seriously about getting involved in the management of the APPC moving forwards.
Related to this, I wanted to reassure all of you - especially those who supported the campaign for an independent APPC - that another priority moving forward will be to consider the recommendations of APPC's strategic review. I have always been of the view that the APPC must consider suggestions for reform, irrespective of the result of the vote. It is my intention that the APPC's leadership team must now sit down and map out our future with PRCA. The strategic review will form a key part of this and of course we will engage and update members as we do so.
In terms of next steps, the APPC's Management Committee meets next Monday to discuss the formal process of merger, which must happen by 1 November 2018. I will keep you all posted on these developments.
Finally, as the campaign for an independent APPC said in their statement 'Now is the time for all sides to come together and to work for a strong public affairs industry in future.' I wholeheartedly agree. I hope that whatever side of the debate you were on, that everyone can now work together to create a stronger, bigger, better APPC. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Management Committee, with you - our members - and with Francis Ingham and his excellent team to make sure that we achieve this.
Chairman of the APPC