Monday, 25 June 2012

ASH's funding: Who's been lying?

I note from Taking Liberties that the government is preparing to give taxpayers' money to ASH for the 42nd successive year. I discussed ASH's 2008 funding application in Sock Puppets, saying:

Contrary to the DH’s claim that it does not fund external research, ASH promised to provide “policy development research, research and analysis for DH, and for other government departments”.

Contrary to ministerial assurances that “none of this funding is to be used for lobbying purposes”, ASH specifically pledged to use part of this Section 64 grant for “media advocacy and lobbying”.

It is worth putting a little flesh on this information since the implications are potentially scandalous. Department of Health guidelines are quite explicit in ruling out the provision of Section 64 grants for research, with only a few specific exemptions...

The Department’s policy is not to award grants if:

- the grant will support research – we define research as ‘creative work carried out systematically to increase knowledge’. There are some instances where the Department may award grants, including for development projects, information services, routine surveillance or data-collection activities.

With regards to lobbying, successive ministers have stated in parliament that DoH grants to ASH are not, and cannot, be used for lobbying. Here is Dawn Primarolo, then Minister for Public Health, speaking in 2008:

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) received funding from the Department in the current financial year in accordance with the 'Section 64 General Scheme of Grants to voluntary and Community Organisations'. The standard conditions attached to these grants including audit procedures are published on the Department's website.

ASH has received this grant specifically to carry out a defined project entitled "Capitalising on Smokefree: the way forward". None of this funding is to be used for lobbying purposes.

And here is Anne Milton, the current Minister for Public Health, speaking in 2011:

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has received funding from the Department in the past, through the Department's ‘Section 64 General Scheme of Grants to voluntary and Community Organisations’. ASH received these grants specifically to carry out defined projects.

None of this funding was, or could be used, for lobbying purposes.

Seems pretty unambiguous, no? But...

ASH's Section 64 funding request of 2008 tells a rather different story. Thanks to a Freedom of Information request made by Richard Puddlecote, we can see that ASH explicitly told the Department of Health that their "methods for achieving our objectives" included...

"Media advocacy and lobbying" (point 2 below)

and

"Policy development research, research and analysis both for DH, and for other government departments" (point 4).




ASH were duly awarded £600,000 over three years, as they had asked for. This raises a couple of thorny questions which require answers.

Were ASH lying when they told the DoH that they would spend the money on lobbying and research? It seems most unlikely that they would do so.

If they weren't lying and in fact did use part of the money for lobbying and research, then successive government ministers have misled the House when they said that grants to ASH were not used for these purposes.

Were the ministers lying, or had they been lied to by ASH or the DoH? In either case, why were these grants awarded in the first place when the application made it clear that at least part of the money would be used in ways which broke Department of Health rules?

I think we should be told.

9 comments:

ondra said...

I think the problem here is that money is fungible; i.e. the only way you could at least somewhat assure the money was not used for lobbying, is to ensure the foundation does no lobbying at all. They will, of course, claim that this money was not used for lobbying and that money from other sources was used for this purpose.

Ben said...

@ondra
but they included lobbying as one of the reasons they wanted the grant.

Anonymous said...

The disease: Monomania

The cure: stop giving them money.

Mr A said...

But the Media don't give a damn about this, so who can raise it in the House? Philip Davies, maybe? Friendly MPs need to be told so something can be done about this.

Furor Teutonicus said...

XX There are some instances where the Department may award grants, including for development projects, information services, routine surveillance or data-collection activities. XX

Ahhh...Hold on a minute; "routine surveillance."?!?

In my line of work, it's called "spying".

Or do THEY say it means something else?

Ivan D said...

Isn't it odd that nobody including I suspect Milton and Lansley has a clue what "Capitalising on Smokefree: the way forward" actually is?

Even ASH don't say anything about it, which is unusual as they are not normally shy about their projects.

The sad reality is that the DoH is so corrupt that nobody cares what ASH and countless other NGOs use our money for. Especially not those who are supposed to represent us.

Anonymous said...

OT: I'd like to be able to cite that fast food study from a few a days ago. Can you give me a link or, if it's not online, a title, lead researcher, and where it was published?

I'll check back on this thread. Thanks

Walt

ReefKnot said...

There are umpteen of these fake charities taking 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 public support they have. Meanwhile, real charities doing real charitable work like RNLI or Air Ambulance get nothing and have to rely on individual donations. This is an enormous scandal and needs to be given as much publicity as possible.

Ivan D said...

ASH is largely funded by CRUK which is a "real" charity. Most people who donate to CRUK are unaware that they are funding anything other than cancer research. CRUK was formerly government backed, is still government supported and is one of the BBC's favourite NGOs so is publicly untouchable. CRUK is arguably obtaining money under false pretenses but nobody in Westmister has the guts to talk about the corruption that afflicts the charity industry.