Roles and Recommendations of Stakeholders Impacted by the UK Anti-Lobbying Cause

The National Council of Voluntary Organizations: The public and taxpayers benefit greatly from the services that charities provide. Small and medium sized charities benefit significantly from government funding and face significant challenges in obtaining government funding without lobbying access.[1] Many charities are inadequately funded, and without the government these charities would have to rely on unreliable donations for income. Vital functions provided by charities include the delivery of services to minority and disadvantaged groups, the promotion of campaigns and issue awareness, and – a crucially important function –engaging in policymaking activities in order to advance the interests of the people and communities they serve.[2] It is concerning that the National Council of Voluntary Organizations (NCVO) will no longer have a voice if the NCVO is not allowed to lobby the government.[3] Both free speech and rights to services are potentially infringed with anti-lobbying clause.

Universities: Academic freedom is crucial for Universities that receive public funding to advance knowledge and information in the academic community and the public at large.[4] Thus, the anti-lobbying clause could be detrimental to this enterprise, and universities would likely want to continue to be exempted from it. A clarification clause was added on 19 April 2016, which stated that the Higher Education Funding Council for England would not be covered by the anti-lobbying clause.[5] This was a welcome development for the preservation of academic freedom, but it is only temporary. A longer commitment to academic freedom with removal of the anti-lobbying clause is needed.

Research Councils UK: The Research Councils UK (RCUK) is not in favor of having its member research entities included in the lobbying ban. Despite the fact that member institutions of RCUK receive money from the government Science Budget, the attitude toward having restrictions placed upon solicitation of funding for scientific research is not cooperative. Scientists, researchers, and academics believe that the voice of science will be stifled and that the pace of scientific innovation will be compromised to the detriment of the public at large.[6]

Taxpaying citizens: Taxpaying citizens deserve to know how their government money is being spent. However, this should not occur at the expense of receiving well-needed services that are provided by the government-funded charities.

Conservative lobby: Many conservatives believe that excessive supply of funding to charities, along with the special privilege charities have to lobby the government to maintain or obtain additional funds, demotivate charities to operate independently. This is a source of drain to the taxpayers, who should not have to finance these charities.[7] However, some conservative lawmakers disagree, stating that charity access to lobbying lawmakers is crucial to the operation of these organizations. Others cite that it is difficult to effectively regulate an anti-lobbying clause when funds are derived from both the government and a variety of different sources.[8]

Institute of Economic Affairs: The Institute of Economic Affairs believes that the anti-lobbying clause is appropriate as more transparency with regard to the procurement, distribution, and expenditure of funds is needed.[9]

Government: The government wants to maintain an air of impartiality and fairness for all to achieve a stable and well-functioning government. Doing so involves ensuring that the public trust is not compromised. Partisan politicians must honor the wishes of their constituencies with regard to the anti-lobbying issue.

Recommendations:

  1. The NCVO should help lobby for sustained removal of the anti-lobbying clause by engaging political resources and capitalizing on political relationships to get the clause removed.
  2. The NCVO should help lobby for sustained removal of the anti-lobbying clause by engaging other stakeholders with similar concerns about the negative impact of this clause. For example, the academics and scientists have been successful in this effort. The anti-lobbying issue represents a collective action problem in which all of us are impacted negatively by having decreased lobbying access to government. The NCVO is providing a public good for citizens in need of services.[10]
  3. Some charities have fewer resources for engaging in this type of campaign and may inadvertently be “free riders” that benefit from those who may be able to engage more actively. However, if successful in reversing the anti-lobbying clause, these organizations will carry their share in the future provision of public goods to the citizens who need them.[11]
  4. The NCVO should initiate a grassroots advocacy and communication campaign to raise awareness for the valuable work NGOs and charities perform for the public. The public needs to know of the diminished services charities will no longer be able to provide to them – particularly to disadvantaged groups – and how they will be adversely impacted by the changes.
  5. The charities should continue to work together to marshal resources and engage the taxpaying citizens in order to obtain a permanent removal of the anti-lobbying clause from legislation.
  6. NCVO should meet individually with lawmakers to get support for their cause. They should be reminded that by law the NCVO is unable to exploit political favor in their work, so no further restrictions are needed.
  7. The NCVO should target politicians who are in favor of the anti-lobbying legislation with their strongest concerns and should consider withholding support from these politicians’ current administrations or candidacies for future office. Donors should also be made aware of the negative impact these politicians have effected.
  8. In the event of government opposition, NCVO should explore legal options to determine how NCVO may assert its rights through the courts in this process. This may be done after options through grass-roots campaigns have been exhausted.

Dorkina Myrick, MD, PhD, MPP, is a physician-scientist and pathologist trained at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Myrick also previously served as a Senior Health Policy Advisor on the United States Senate.  She obtained her Master of Public Policy degree at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. Dr. Myrick is currently a JD candidate at the Boston University School of Law.

References:

[1]“Government’s spending with small and medium-sized enterprises.” HC 884 https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Governments-spending-with-small-and-medium-sizes-enterprises.pdf. 7 March 2016.

[2] “Anti-Advocacy clause is counter-productive.” NCVO. http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2016/02/06/anti-advocacy-clause-is-counter-productive/ 6 February 2016.

[3] “Charities will not be silenced by new grant rules.” BBC News. 6 February 2016. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-35509117

[4] Matthews, David. “Anti-lobbying clause:’no intention to apply it to academics.” https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/anti-lobbying-clause-no-intention-to-apply-it-to-academics. 19 April 2016

[5] Id.

[6] Sarah Main and James Wilsdon. “The anti-lobbying clause will undermine evidence, policy and the public interest.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2016/feb/18/the-anti-lobbying-clause-will-undermine-evidence-policy-and-the-public-interest.

[7] Snowden, Christopher. “Sock Puppets: How the government lobbies itself and why.” Institute of Economic Affairs. June 2012. http://www.iea.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/files/DP_Sock%20Puppets_redesigned.pdf

[8]“Charities will not be silenced by new grant rules.” BBC News. 6 February 2016. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-35509117

[9] Id.

[10] Olson, Mancur. The Logic of Collective Action. Public Goods and the Theory of Groups, Second printing. January 1971.

[11] Id.

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