Charities to be banned from using public funds to lobby ministersRevealed: A new clause to be inserted into all new and renewed grant agreements will make sure that taxpayer funds are spent on improving people's lives and good causes, rather than covering lobbying for new regulationCharities in receipt of Government grants will be banned from using these taxpayer funds to engage in political lobbying, The Telegraph can disclose.
A new clause to be inserted into all new and renewed grant agreements will make sure that taxpayer funds are spent on improving people's lives and good causes, rather than covering lobbying for new regulation or using taxpayers’ money to lobby for more government funding.
It will not prevent organisations from using their own privately-raised funds to campaign as they see fit.
The Institute of Economic Affairs, a right of centre think tank, has undertaken extensive research on so-called “sock puppets”, exposing how taxpayers’ money given to pressure groups is paid to fund lobbying campaigns on policies such as a sugar tax and the environment.
Officials are hoping that the clause will ensure that freedom of speech is protected, while stopping taxpayers’ money being diverted away from good causes.
Matt Hancock, the Cabinet Office minister, told The Telegraph: “Taxpayers’ money must be spent on improving people’s lives and spreading opportunities, not wasted on the farce of government lobbying government.“The public sector never lobbies for lower taxes and less state spending, and it’s a zero sum game if Peter is robbed to pay Paul.“These common sense rules will protect freedom of speech – but people won’t be made to foot the bill for political campaigning and political lobbying."“Conservatives are standing up for value for money, so we can keep taxes down and support better services that people can rely on.”Chris Snowden [sic - damnit!] , head of Lifestyle Economics at the IEA, said: “This is very good news for taxpayers who will no longer be forced to pay for the government to lobby itself.“At every level - local, national and European - people have been subsidising political campaigns that they may not know about and might disagree with.“Campaigning is an important part of a thriving democracy but charities and pressure groups should not be doing it with taxpayers’ money.”The exact phrase that will be inserted into all new and renewed grant agreements reads: “The following costs are not Eligible Expenditure:- Payments that support activity intended to influence or attempt to influence Parliament, Government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action”.
It might seem obvious that the government shouldn't be paying for pressure groups to lobby itself, but the practice has become endemic in recent years. Hats off to Matt Hancock for doing something about it.
Ministers don't get enough credit when they do good things in politics. Hancock will doubtless receive a flurry of complaints from those who see it as their right to use taxpayers' money for their political campaigns, so if you are pleased about him chipping away at the sock-puppet state, do send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be doing likewise.