Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Oink

As reported by Iain DaleConservativeHome and others, FOREST have produced a report showing the scale of public funding involved in Britain's anti-tobacco industry (if that doesn't work, try this). It's comprehensive and is worth downloading, reading and keeping for reference.

As is apparent from Iain Dale's post, many people remain unaware that the 'health groups' and 'charities' who petition for anti-smoking (and other neo-prohibitionist) legislation are quangos in all but name. The fact that charities like ASH raise next-to-nothing in the way of public donations speaks volumes about how little grassroots support these organisations have.

Some of the figures are bafflingly high. Smoke Free North West (who contributed the bulk of responses to Labour's dodgy consultation on display bans) received £1.9m from the taxpayer—ten times more than ASH (England). ASH (Scotland) receives £1.4m to serve a population ten times smaller than England, while employing a staggering 27 people. The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies—the home of Anna Gilmore and a lobby group in all but name—has been given £3.7m.

In any bonfire of the quangos, these astroturf groups should be the first on the list. I can think of no reason at all why the taxpayer should be forced to fund lobbyists. It is a throwback to the worst excesses of the last government, which routinely used public money to manufacture support for its own policies. Unless the coalition puts an end to this dubious practice, it will be seen to be condoning the Machiavellian tricks of the previous administration while making a mockery of its claim to be the party of responsible spending.

It's really pretty simple. If these groups are providing a public service (such as smoking cessation), they should be incorporated into the Department of Health where they will have to be accountable (and, importantly, subject to the Freedom of Information Act). This is what is happening in Ireland.

If they don't provide a public service (and most are purely lobbyists), then there is no case for them to be funded by the government they are lobbying. If ASH et al. are going present themselves as charities then they should act like charities and do their own fund-raising instead of forcing hardworking people to graft to keep them in the manner to which they have become accustomed. As Longrider said recently:

Well, firstly, if these charities do things that people want, they will fund them voluntarily. If they fail due to lack of funds, then people don’t want them and they will deservedly disappear. If they are providing essential public services, then why are they charities at all?

Quite so. This is an open and shut case. It's time for the anti-smoking lobby to stand on their own two feet.

7 comments:

Ben said...

The link under "a report showing the scale of public funding involved in Britain's anti-tobacco industry" seems to be wrong

Snowdon said...

It works for me Ben. Any else having trouble?

Belinda said...

Sheila Duffy here says she is not allowed to lobby with government money, but uses the money to implement government policy

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/s3/committees/hs/or-09/he09-1702.htm#Col2004

Her latest extravaganza ('Beyond Smoke-free', downloadable from ASH Scotland website) was funded by Cancer Research UK. It looks like a lobbying effort to me.

Ann W. said...

This might help people to know what a charity can and can not do in the UK

CC9 - Speaking Out - Guidance on Campaigning and Political Activity by Charities - (Version - March 2008)
http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/publications/cc9.aspx

When reading documents like this, always keep in mind the official definition of "Charitable Purpose" and "Political Purpose"

Charitable purposes mean purposes which the law regards as charitable. These are now set out in the Charities Act 2006. To be a charity, all purposes of an organisation must be exclusively charitable. A charity cannot have some purposes which are charitable as well as others which are not; each and every purpose of a charity must be charitable in its own right. A charity’s purposes are set out in its governing document.

Political purpose: A political purpose means any purpose directed at furthering the interests of any political party; or securing, or opposing, any change in the law or in the policy or decisions of central government, local authorities or other public bodies, whether in this country or abroad.

Example: An organisation set up to oppose a new runway at an airport applies for charity registration. The Charity Commission would reject the application as having a political purpose, as it would oppose the Government’s policy on airports.

Example: An organisation set up to protect the environment applies for charity registration. The organisation carries out a range of activities, including some political activity aimed at securing a change in the Government’s policy on airports. The Charity Commission would accept the application if it was clear that securing a change in Government policy was not the continuing and sole activity of the charity, but part of a wider range of activities aimed at furthering its charitable purposes.

Example: An organisation which has been established to protect life and property by the prevention of all abortions applies for charity registration. Since the purpose can only be achieved through a change in law, the Charity Commission would reject the application as having a political purpose.

Fredrik Eich said...

Chris, that link does not work for me either! The reason why these links sometimes do not work is because they have white spaces in it. These sometimes get lost in translation and so embedded hyper-links sometimes don't work. It's always safest to use links that have no white space in them.

Taking Liberties has provided link with no whitespace in it here:

http://takingliberties.squarespace.com/storage/GovtlobbyinggovtOct2010.pdf


This will always work for example!

Snowdon said...

Ok, I've put that link it as well. Hopefully that works for everyone.

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