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Agency criticised

Charlotte St Partners urged to rethink ‘unwise’ peer hire

Andrew Wilson and Lord Duncan

Charlotte Street Partners, the Edinburgh and London communications company, has been urged to rethink its appointment of the House of Lords deputy speaker as an adviser.

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has described the hiring of Lord Duncan of Springbank as a consulting partner as unwise and unethical and claims it brings the House of Lords into disrepute.

Another public affairs association has responded quickly to the appointment by banning the agency from membership

Charlotte Street Partners is run by Andrew Wilson, the SNP strategic adviser, and Malcolm Robertson, whose father Lord Robertson is a former Scottish Secretary and Secretary General of NATO.

The agency announced Lord Duncan’s appointment this week alongside that of Katie Armour, former press officer for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Charlotte Street Partners said Lord Duncan will provide insight and advice to clients, principally on engagement with the European Union and across a number of industry sectors.

He is a former UK government minister currently serving as deputy speaker of the House of Lords and the agency said his appointment is “in compliance with the advice received from the UK government’s advisory committee on business appointments (ACOBA).”

However, the PRCA, which is the world’s largest professional PR body and works to “champion – and enforce – professional standards”, said the agency should “do the ethical thing”.

It said Charlotte Street Partners appears on the Government’s statutory Lobbying Register, and is in the minority of lobbying firms that do not declare adherence to a Code of Conduct.

Liam Herbert, PRCA public affairs committee chairman, said: “It is simply wrong for lobbying firms to employ members of the House of Lords, and unthinkable that the Deputy Speaker of the Lords himself would think it appropriate to accept such a job.

“The PRCA Public Affairs Code is crystal clear – you cannot be a legislator and a lobbyist. You have to pick one or the other”.

Francis Ingham, PRCA director general added: “While I am aware that Charlotte Street Partners has chosen not to be covered by any Code of Conduct, I would nonetheless urge them to do the ethical thing, and to rethink this incredibly unwise appointment, which brings the House of Lords into disrepute.

Peter Duncan, convener of the Association for Scottish Public Affairs, the membership body for public affairs practitioners, added his organisation’s concern.

He said: “ASPA is absolutely clear – you can be a lobbyist or you can be a law maker, but you cannot be both. Our code of conduct makes the position completely clear, and as a result Charlotte Street Partners will no longer be entitled to membership of our Association. Their details are being removed from our website – we will not compromise on our high standards.”

A spokesman for Charlotte Street Partners said: “Ian’s appointment has been approved by the UK government’s advisory committee on business appointments (ACOBA).  

“His work for us, as a strategic consultancy, will focus on analysis and advice relating to the European Union, and on environmental matters.

“This is fully compliant with ACOBA guidance, which makes clear that he is not permitted to undertake any lobbying, which was never the intention.” 

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