Monday 28 April 2014

Mascot Watch #28: Government Lobbying Government Edition

Over at Breitbart London, the spotlight is being shone on ASH in an article entitled "MP demands action over 'improper' government payments to lobbyists". The lobbyists in question are ASH and - I'm thrilled to note - the MP is our very own esteemed blog knight Philip Davies.
An MP has called for an investigation into the "improper funding relationship" between Britain's Department for Health (DH) and an anti-smoking lobby group. Philip Davies MP made the demand after revelations that DH granted money to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), which the group subsequently used to lobby for tobacco control measures under consideration by the department.
Now, we've known for a while that ASH receive grant cash from the government - I've mentioned it here from time to time - but what Breitbart bring newly to the table is a grant request where ASH admit that they will use that money to lobby the government.

Or, as our Phil puts it.
Philip Davies MP, said: "It is perfectly clear from the bid documents from ASH for Government funding that some of this money is used by ASH for campaigning activity to lobby the Government to implement ASH's demands. 
"For the Government to in effect spend money to lobby itself is ridiculous and unjustifiable in equal measure. This improper funding relationship should stop and the Government should investigate this and any other similar arrangements to ensure taxpayers' money is not abused in this way".
Quite. What's more, in light of this new information, it is difficult to see how this fits in with ASH laughably calling itself a charity, rather than a political lobbying organisation.
ASH considers plain packaging to be a top policy priority, and has been supportive of standardised packaging laws introduced in Australia and New Zealand.
They do indeed, and this is just the latest in a long list of their recent politically-motivated 'top policy priorities', something which Charity Commission guidance says is not acceptable (emphasis mine).
"A charity cannot exist for a political purpose, which is any purpose directed at furthering the interests of any political party, or securing or opposing a change in the law, policy or decisions either in this country or abroad."
Their previous political activity could hardly be more blatant. In 2006, they were part of the Smokefree Coalition which lobbied for a change in law to bring in the smoking ban. Debs Arnott and Martin Dockrell even boasted - after bullying Blair's government into changing their minds - at how good they were at this political lobbying lark in this document

Following that, ASH also lobbied government for the ban on tobacco displays, a ban on vending machines, massively increased taxation, the medical licensing by MHRA of e-cigs, and they are now nearing the end of their extensive, mendacious and central role in the grubby and corrupt campaign to bring in plain packaging.

Deborah Arnott will then trundle off to Moscow in the autumn to attend the unelected WHO's COP6 to talk about how governments all over the world can be browbeaten into changing their "laws, policies and decisions" too. 

In fact, it's difficult to find anything at all that ASH do which isn't political lobbying.

So well done to our Phil for raising the issue. The only problem being that ASH's abuses are so wide-ranging it's hard to know who to write to and complain about it. The Charity Commission? The National Audit Office? The Department of Health? Eric Pickles? 

Where to start?


BenPal said...

This seems to be a major angle from which to attack ASH on legal grounds. If it is illegal to lobby with charity money, as it seems clearly stated, then it is illegal! And it must be stopped at once. Misused funds of the past have to be repaid to the government (and the tax payers).

Dick_Puddlecote said...

You'd think, wouldn't you? But if you ask ASH, they say that the money is only used for wages ... it's their other money which is used for lobbying, while their charitable aim is actually saving puppies or some such bollocks.

SteveW said...

Just submitted the following FOI request to the DoH. It never hurts to shake a few trees and see what falls out :-)

"...Dear Sir/Madam,

As recently reported (e.g. it would appear that, despite repeated denials both from the department and also from ASH, that grant funding has been supplied from the public purse for the express purpose of political lobbying of the department by their grant recipients.

In view of this, I would like to request, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the following information which I believe the Department of Health to hold.

- The composition of the funding panel who approved the aforementioned grant; both in terms of the numbers of people involved and their positions within the department;

- Whether this was a decision taken by the department or by the ministers overseeing the same;

- Any records detailing the deliberations of the panel as to whether or not the grant should be approved;

- Any communications between the department and the grant recipients whilst the application was being considered;

- Any documents offering guidance to the applicants before or during the application process;

- Any specific guidance offered to the recipients, by the department, pertaining to how the were or were not permitted to use the funds obtained (specifically those relating to lobbying/political activities).

Best Regards

Dr Stephen Wintersgill..."

John Gray said...

"The only problem being that ASH's abuses are so wide-ranging it's hard to know who to write to and complain about it. The Charity Commission? The National Audit Office? The Department of Health? Eric Pickles?" - Dick Puddlecote
Write to as many people as possible to start the shit flying all over the place. Actually, I'm up for this and we should start another campaign. I'm sure TICAP will put in a few letters too as we just finished our contribution to the plain packaging review. So how about it? Concerted campaign anyone? And of course, it's important to smash through the ASH smokescreen of "we use money from other sources," because ASH have far too close a relationship with government for a charity!

Michael J. McFadden said...

There's some somewhat similar discussion on a broader scale for the US at:

Note the comments under the Data Acts photo currently in the top left column, and add some "likes" to Sheila, Pam and myself -- as well as any comments of your own you might have!