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Response to Guardian report on 31 July 2017

Response to Guardian report on 31 July 2017

1st August 2017

Policy Connect is a cross-party not for profit social enterprise, which was set up by Barry Sheerman MP and the late John Butcher, a former Conservative MP. For the past twenty years, Policy Connect has sought to promote better public policy by bringing together charities, academia, NGOs, public sector and private businesses with cross-party parliamentarians, to help shape different areas of UK policy for social good.

  • Policy Connect is a not-for-profit social enterprise
  • Policy Connect does not pay its Directors
  • Policy Connect does not promote any individual organisation or singular interests; rather we pursue the broad aims of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups as stated in the APPG register
  • We do not arrange individual meetings with Ministers for organisations that support Policy Connect’s work

Policy Connect provides secretariat support to All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), commissions and forums in the policy areas of education and skills, sustainability, health, energy safety, manufacturing and design. The Groups, commissions and forums also undertake research inquires which are published on our website and free to download. The APPGs, commissions and forums we operate are led by parliamentarians and independent chairs who are recognised sector experts, such as University Vice Chancellors. All of the parliamentarians and professionals we work with are committed to the politically neutral, advisory role APPGs play in Parliament.

Mr Sheerman is Chair of Policy Connect and does not receive payment, nor do any of the Policy Connect directors. As a social enterprise Policy Connect has donated some of its surpluses to charitable causes including a charity nominated by Mr Sheerman which has been fully declared in the House of Commons register of member’s interests. Upon registration to the Register of Consultant Lobbyists, Mr Sheerman requested all such donations be stopped.

The Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists

Alison White, the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists, recently undertook a review of organisations that provide secretariat services for APPGs to assess if their direct contact with Ministers may require them to join the register. During this review we advised Ms White that Policy Connect does not promote any individual organisation or singular interests, rather we pursue the broad sectorial aims of the APPG as stated in the APPG register. We do not arrange individual meetings with Ministers for organisations that support Policy Connect’s work. As with many APPGs, our staff have, from time to time, on behalf of the APPG Parliamentary Officers, invited Ministers to APPG events, brought research to their attention and included them on APPG circulars, newsletters and updates which are distributed to all Parliamentarians. 

Ms White concluded that such communications meant that Policy Connect should join the register of consultant lobbyists which we did in June 2017. As a result our Chair, Barry Sheerman MP, is named on the register as one of the Directors of Policy Connect. We believe this provides further clarity over our communications activity, which we always strive to ensure is transparent.

Code of Conduct for Financial Supporters

Policy Connect’s work receives financial support from a wide range of organisations including charities, NGOs, education and learning institutions, and small, medium and large corporate businesses. All of these organisations believe that cross party discourse between Parliamentarians, business and academia is desirable for developing considered, evidence-based policy that helps improve citizens’ lives.

Our funders (referred to by us as associated members) all sign a Policy Connect code of conduct which goes above and beyond the requirements for APPGs as set by Parliament. The code is very clear for member organisations that the programme and content of the APPG and Forums’ work is ultimately determined by the Parliamentary Officers and independent chairs. Ministers occasionally attend our meetings in Parliament which are advertised on our websites and the All-Party Notice. You can read the code of conduct, published publically on our website, here.

A Unique Organisation

We are proud of Policy Connect and our contribution to helping to develop better public policy on an open, transparent and cross party basis. As stated we operate as a social enterprise, our turn over in 2015/16 was £1 million, and we employ 23 people many of whom are specialists within their areas of work. Our small surplus last year of £15,000 has been reinvested back into the organisation specifically to improve our staff wages and office provision. Policy Connect supports university student internships; we also pay the London Living Wage. Our staff support charities, this includes as mentors on a programme for disadvantaged young people entering university and careers, and in 2017 we are supporting SafeLives, a charity tackling domestic abuse.

Policy Connect is a unique organisation in the field of supporting All-Party Parliamentary Groups as this is the primary function and focus of our work. In many other cases, APPGs are supported by large public affairs agencies. All of our work, meetings and events for APPGs, commissions and forums is recorded and published on our website.

Transparency

We welcome increased transparency as we believe scrutiny is essential if there is to be confidence in the work we do and the way in which we conduct our business.