It's a month and a half since the establishment of the Public Affairs Board (PAB). In that time, the Executive Committee has been busy undertaking the work we promised our members - and the wider industry - that we would prioritise.
The Executive Committee is committed to agreeing the new Public Affairs Code by the end of January. We have now developed our consultation, open to PAB members, and we're seeking feedback by the middle of next month. This is arguably the most important tenet of our work: the new Public Affairs Code will underpin everything that we do. It's therefore vital that we get the strongest possible Code agreed as soon as is practicable.
There are a few key areas that we are looking for specific feedback on. The APPC’s code historically applied only to members’ UK public affairs conduct, even if those members conducted public affairs elsewhere. We're seeking member feedback on removing that APPC-specific limitation, and ensuring the Code properly applies to all institutions of government. We're asking members for their views on the independent arbitration: the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) noted that this would continue, but we would welcome feedback. In line with the MoU, we are proposing that the PAB complaints procedure should be based on the former APPC procedure, so that determinations on compliance or non-compliance are made by an independent third party without the involvement of either the Executive Committee or the PRCA Board.
The Lobbying Registrar
Joined by a number of my colleagues from the Executive Committee I recently met with the new Statutory Lobbying Registrar, Harry Rich. Looking to the future the Registrar did not foresee any significant changes. However, he confirmed that he was looking at some potential process alterations, for example reducing the number of reminders to registrants to file on time, and publishing Information Notices and Civil Penalties. I would encourage members to provide myself and colleagues on the Executive Committee (get in touch here) with their own feedback about any of these changes as they are introduced over coming months so that we can, in turn, ensure that we alert the Registrar about any of the more administrative issues that we face as registrants.
The Public Affairs Board has agreed to a review of the member code compliance training. For the APPC, it was at training sessions that new members formed that all-important first impression of the organisation, and there is broad consensus that this could be significantly improved. A sub-committee has been set up to look at this and work out how - tapping into the PRCA’s resources - we can ensure that new practitioners coming for their Public Affairs Code training for the first time are offered a more thorough, professional training experience than before. I am hopeful we’ll be able to share ideas about reforms with members sometime early in the new year.
I am pleased that we’re making some good headway. The migration over from APPC to the PRCA has been a smooth one: we have an Executive Committee with shared values and a clear idea of how we want to take the Public Affairs Board forward in 2019. It just leaves me to wish everyone a restful, fun Christmas break and I look forward to seeing many of you in 2019 for what promises to be another unpredictable and uncertain year in British politics!