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Although the UK’s professional lobbying industry as we know it today has its most direct roots in the 1980s – when lobbying agencies first emerged – the history of lobbying can be traced back to the middle of the 17th century. “Lobby” originally, in the political sense, referred to one of the lobbies in the House of Commons. The Oxford English Dictionary cites examples going back as far as 1640, citing the House of Commons specifically as the place where the public could go to speak to – or lobby – their members. 

It was not until the 1980s that the industry was established and public affairs and lobbying consultancies – of the kind that we recognise today – were first established. Although the issue of professional lobbying was in fact attracting the attention of Parliament in 1969. The growth of professional lobbying was a subsidiary theme of the Reports of the Select Committees on Members' Interests (Declaration) of both 1969 and 1974. When, in the 1983-84 session, a further Committee examined the growth of the industry a witness estimated that that the political consultancy business had an annual fee income of £3.25m. This grew to an estimated £9m by 1987, at which time it was estimated that the industry was experiencing annual growth of between 20-25%.

“The cash for questions” affair shone a light on professional lobbying for the first time, forcing the industry to confront issues. In response to these developments the APPC was established to provide transparency to the industry and to develop a set of ethical rules governing how lobbying agencies should behave. In 1994, five consultancies established the APPC as a self-regulatory body, with its own Code of Conduct, a publicly-available register of clients, and a complete ban on any financial relationship with politicians. It is partly because of the leading role played by the APPC and the PRCA that the public affairs industry in the UK today has one of the best ethical track records of any in the world. 

At the APPC Extraordinary General Meeting on Monday, 8th October, 2018, APPC members voted to merge the organisation with the PRCA, effective Thursday, 1st November, 2018.