3rd August 2007

“Trickery, deceit and manipulation”

On 30 July 2007 the London Evening Standard published a two-page article on PPS, a PR agency used by BAA at Stansted Airport, under the headline “Trickery, Deceit and Manipulation”. The story was also broadcast by the Channel 4 Dispatches programme on the same evening and there was follow-up coverage in other media including the Financial Times.

The Evening Standard also reported that the Managing Director of PPS, Stephen Byfield, was “heavily involved in BAA’s hugely controversial project to expand Stansted Airport”.

SSE issued a press release on 31 July referring to the Evening Standard article and the Channel 4 programme and also to our experience at Stansted in the time since BAA hired PPS in 2004. This was shortly after the appointment of Mark Pendlington as the new Communications Director at Stansted, himself a former Managing Director of PPS.

We note that PPS has since issued a rebuttal of the allegations contained in the Evening Standard article and the Channel 4 Dispatches programme and we are happy to publish PPS’s rebuttal in full, as follows:

“The article in the Evening Standard by Andrew Gilligan and subsequent Dispatches programme on Channel 4, both on the 30th July, concerning allegations that are nearly ten years old, makes a number of statements about PPS practices that are totally unfounded, and which we utterly refute. We have put this matter into the hands of our lawyers, Carter-Ruck, and will vigorously contest these accusations.

PPS has not and would never forge letters, has not and would never bug meetings and has not and would never infiltrate campaign groups. PPS would dismiss any staff or consultant who undertook such activities as depicted in the article.

PPS engages in professional work to the highest standards at all times and the allegations described in the Evening Standard article bear no relation to the truth. We seek to engage with communities in a positive manner to make the case for new development on behalf of our clients.”

It is in the light of PPS’s rebuttal that SSE has issued this amended press release.

SSE has discussed this matter both with Channel 4 and the Evening Standard and is aware that, in accordance with OFCOM’s guidance, PPS was pre-notified of the content of the Channel 4 Dispatches programme and the related Evening Standard article two weeks before their broadcast/publication on 30 July 2007 but did not seek an injunction. SSE is also aware that the ACPP, the body responsible for upholding ethical standards in public affairs, has called an emergency meeting to discuss what action to take over the media allegations about PPS.

SSE awaits the outcome of events with interest and in the meantime reserves its legal position.

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits