Friday, 10 September 2010

Chris Whitehouse Is Just Wrong

Chris Whitehouse, MD of The Whitehouse Consultancy is on the soapbox in this week's PR Week, with a precis of a longer article first published earlier this month. He's returning to his favourite topic -bashing his own industry. I know he is passionate about standards in public affairs, but it does nonetheless strike me as a strange way to address your profession.

Allow me to make a riposte. I make no apology for it being direct.

He states that "The first time there is a lobbying scandal that involves a company or individual included on the statutory register, the media will generate pressure for the culprit to be punished". Correct. "With no statutory authority to insist on a minimum standard of behaviour and with no scale of sanctions available, the authorities will be powerless to act". Absolutely incorrect. There are standards -set by the PRCA, CIPR and APPC Codes. There is a scale of sanctions -again, set out in our Codes. The 'authorities' (slightly strange word but I'll let it pass) do have the ability and the appetite to act.

I'm never quite certain if the people who wheel out this 'self-regulation is no regulation' line are deliberately being inaccurate, or just haven't bothered to look at what the self-regulatory bodies actually do. Our Code covers all PRCA member employees. It includes a clear, fair and robust disciplinary process. We enforce it rigorously. We have a range of sanctions available all the way up to public expulsion. We are more than willing to use them.

It's a pretty straightforward situation.

The ridiculousness of the industry beating itself up is that there are plenty of other people happy to do so -we really don't need to add to their numbers.

There certainly is a debate to be had about regulation, but it will be a rather more productive one if it includes some facts.


  1. It is rather disingenuous of Francis Ingham to suggest that the Codes of the APPC, PRCA and CIPR will deliver the sanctions necessary to deal with all those who may be included in a statutory register of lobbyists should they act unethically. The APPC in particular has observed repeatedly that the majority of those who should be considered "lobbyists" in the wider sense and should be required to register are not members of any one of those three bodies and so are not covered by their Codes. Facts indeed do afford, Francis, a more sound basis for debate.

  2. Sorry Chris, but everyone who is on the register will be held accountable by at least one Code of Conduct. That's been made pretty clear all along, and is obvious to everyone who's followed the debate.

  3. Francis, with respect, and as confirmed by Officials to me today, you are wrong in your assertions. It is not Government policy to require registrants to belong to a self-regulatory body or to adhere to a code of practice. Hopefully we may persuade Government otherwise during the course of the coming consultation.