Tuesday 9 October 2012

Steve Baker MP Looks Into Charity Sock Puppets

Steve Baker, one of the good guys in parliament as exhibited by his being DK's chosen blog mascot, has been submitting written questions on charities, their funding, and government's policy on the subsequent use of that funding for lobbying.

Here's his submission to Communities and Local Government.

Steven Baker (Wycombe, Conservative) 
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what his Department's policy is on the (a) grant to and (b) use by registered charities of funding from his Department for the purposes of advocacy, lobbying or campaigning; and if he will make a statement.
Responding, Brandon Lewis makes a few interesting points (emphases mine).
Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth, Conservative) 
Ministers believe that it is inappropriate for taxpayers' money to subsidise such campaigning activity
Grants to external bodies outline how the funds should be spent and typically include a standard condition that the funds provided should not be spent on activities of a political nature. If hon. Members have concerns that grant recipients are acting inappropriately, Ministers would welcome this being brought to our attention. More broadly, since May 2010, my Department has taken steps to: 
Cancel all lobbying contracts held by our Department's public bodies, to stop the practice (common under the last Administration) of government lobbying government
Introduce a new “Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity” to tackle the use of lobbyists by local authorities; 
Publish online all departmental and arm’s length body spending over £500 (now moving to £250) to facilitate greater public scrutiny and accountability of the organisations we fund. 
The activities of registered charities are also governed by the Charities Act and guidance issued by the Charity Commission.
It all sounds very promising, doesn't it?

That it is inappropriate for taxpayers' money to subsidise campaigning is pretty obvious, but it's good that politicians are finally realising that fact and - at least on the surface - saying they will do something about it.  It's encouraging too that Lewis claims his department is attempting to "stop the practice of government lobbying government".

Of course, we're all well aware of a case recently where nearly half a million pounds flowed from government coffers to an offshoot of the state to lobby and campaign for just one proposed state policy. The exact definition of 'government lobbying government', if ever one was needed. In fact, so much of our taxes do these kinds of state-funded entities receive that MPs have trouble keeping track of it all.

There is also a high profile charity, to which government has been shovelling cash for over four decades, which does nothing else but "advocacy, lobbying or campaigning".

Baker has so far received responses from three identical questions like the one above. The other two were from the DfT and the DfID. As I understand it, MPs are only allowed a certain number of written questions per day so, if Baker has taken to asking this of all departments, there could be more to come.

The Department of Health's response could be a corker, don't you think?


PatNurse said...

I'm sure they will squeeze out some nonsense to try and convince us all that black IS white but it's nice to see more MPs waking up to the scam.

david said...

Yep, they'll claim it's about public health and not politics.

Greg Burrows said...

We will have to wait and see, Lansley's outburst against tobacco, gives me little hope, tobacco control certainly convinced him, we will have to see if Mr Hunt comes out with something similar once he has got settled in, powerful people at work I think.

harleyrider1989 said...

Nazism disguised as public health

Junican said...

Didn't ASH manage to con the National Lottery into giving them a couple of hundred thousand? I wonder how the Nat Lottery managed to justify giving that money to an advertising agency?

ReefKnot said...

As I have said elsewhere, there are hundreds of these fake charities taking large amounts of taxpayers money to campaign and
lobby for their pet causes when if they had to generate funds the way real
charities do - eg standing on street corners - they wouldn't get a penny piece,
which tells you how much genuine public support they have. Examples are ASH - trying to stop you smoking, Stonewall - who promote the Homosexual way of life, Alcohol Concern - who want to limit your drinking and Brake - who want you to drive at 20 mph. All of these are subsidised by taxpayers money via Government and Government agencies.
Meanwhile, real honest charities
doing real honest charitable work like RNLI and Air Ambulance seem to get nothing and instead have to
rely on individual and private donations. This is an enormous scandal and needs to be given
as much publicity as possible. More than that, Government support of fake charities or 'Sock Puppets' needs to be stopped.

Conspiracy Thierry said...

Mr Hunt will do as he is told.

John Pickworth said...

"This is an enormous scandal and needs to be given as much publicity as possible."

Absolutely. Absolutely.

We should all be writing to our MPs to tell them of our concern. Toss in a few comments like 'scandal', 'worse than the MPs expenses outrage' and 'fraud against taxpayers' will help concentrate their minds. I'd also suggest asking for an 'inquiry', that always makes them nervous.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

That was ASH Scotland. £500k to think up ways of banning smoking in your own home. They employed Aberdeen Uni.


Dick_Puddlecote said...

The Nuffield link is particularly scary (well, that's his liberal credentials up the swanee). Great stuff from the Slog.

Steve Baker MP said...

There will be further answers. We asked them all.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Thanks for the confirmation, we're looking forward to the responses.

Nice of you to drop by. :)