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”.
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)
"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.