UK Organizations Navigate the UK Anti-Lobbying Clause

The government instituted an anti-lobbying clause for all UK organizations with government contracts as of 6 February 2016.[1] The government raised concerns about:

  • A lack of transparency in charity lobbying and operational activities
  • A conflict of interest in allowing organizations that receive government funds to lobby the government for additional resources
  • Preferential treatment over other citizens and/or taxpayers in accessing government resources.[2]

It is of concern that charities’ work and voices will be limited by this inability to readily petition access to government resources and support, and the above concerns raised by the government should be carefully considered. The work that charities do is vital for the communities they serve, and funding is critical for this.

Lobbying is an effective way of persuading an individual or group with legislative authority or power to obtain a desired action, result, or resource from them.[3] Currently, there are 27,000 organizations that perform charitable work that is primarily financed through government grants. Until the anti-lobbying clause was instated, these charities lobbied government on behalf of their interests.[4]

Election BanquetImage: An election banquet. Engraving by W. Hogarth, 1755. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY [20]

The government is concerned that the taxpayers and citizens view lobbying and increased access to government resources by charities unfavorably due to conflict of interest, lack of accountability, government waste, and lack of transparency. These characteristics are detrimental to retaining and maintaining the public trust. Recently, the UK government has taken measures to address problems with faltering public trust associated with lobbying and increase transparency in government. [5] [6] [7] [8] These measures include creating a registry of organizations that receive public government funding and reducing the number of organizations operating independently of the government with government funding, often advancing both government and their own agendas with little oversight or transparency.[9] [10]

However, the government does not necessarily discourage lobbying. In fact, when used appropriately, lobbying can be mutually beneficial. Entities that lobby government are useful as brokers of information and resources pertaining to the interest groups that lobby them.[11] This is one major reason why the implementation of anti-lobbying provisions could be counter-productive.[12]

The Institute of Economic Affairs published a paper in 2012 that examined the impact of government funds on charity views, action, support, and advocacy.[13] Despite the fact that charities are prohibited by law from assuming political party affiliations or engaging in partisan activities, the report’s researchers expressed concerns about possible undue influence of government funds on charity activity.[14] [15] Additionally, concerns were raised about silencing or muting of charities’ voices in expressing real or perceived concerns regarding government conduct or activity.[16]

Members of Parliament believed that by maintaining the current practice of allowing organizations that receive government funds to lobby the government, organizations were receiving preferential treatment. This was because the taxpayers who provide funding for these organizations to remain operational through government grant or other funding are not conferred the same privileged lobbying access.[17] Now, new laws have been enacted which state that organizations that operate with government funds will not be allowed to lobby the government on behalf of their causes. [18] [19]

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] Cabinet Office and The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP. “Government announces new clause to be inserted into grant agreements.” www.gov.uk. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-new-clause-to-be-inserted-into-grant-agreements. Retrieved 6 February 2016.

[2] Id.

[3]“Lobbying.” Encyclopedia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/topic/lobbying.

[4] Id. at Cabinet Office and The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP.

[5] “Strengthening transparency around lobbying.” https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/407530/2901376_LobbyingStandards_WEB.pdf. Committee on Standards in Public Life. November 2013.

[6] “Arm’s-length government confused, opaque and unaccountable, says PASC.” http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-administration-select-committee/news/report-accountability-of-quangos/. Commons Select Committee. www.parliament.uk 10 November 2014.

[7]“Reforms to quangos will deliver millions in savings.” Department for Communities and Local Government and The Rt Hon Sir Eric Pickles MP. 16 March 2011. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/reforms-to-quangos-will-deliver-millions-in-savings

[8] ‘Lobbying: Access and Influence in Whitehall.’ House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee. January 2009.

[9] “Q&A: What is a quango?” BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11405840

[10] Id. at Cabinet Office and The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP.

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

[12] Id.

[13] 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

[14] Charities Act 2011. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2011/25

[15] Id. at Snowden, Christopher.

[16] Id. at Snowden, Christopher.

[17] Id. at Cabinet Office and The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP.

[18] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11405840

[19] Id. at Cabinet Office and The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP.

[20] Image: “The scene is partly derived from the notorious Oxfordshire election of 1754. (R.J. Robson, The Oxfordshire Election of 1754, Oxford 1949) between the Tories or ‘Old interest’ and the Whigs or ‘New Interest’. The Whigs are inside a tavern. Above the two candidates, who sit on the left side, is a prominent banner bearing the slogan ‘Liberty and Loyalty’. The young candidate endures being kissed by a fat old crone and his wig smoulders due to the contents of a pipe emptied on his head. The other candidate is accosted by a man with scratches on his face. The two factions exchange abuse: a brick hurled through the window hits a man on the head, knocking him backwards, while in return the chamber pot is emptied out of the window. A butcher nurses the head of an election ruffian who clutches a cudgel, by pouring the contents of a bottle of gin on the wound. At the head of the table the mayor, surrounded by empty oyster shells, is bled by a barber-surgeon (a tourniquet is tied round his arm). The scenes contains extensive detail and topical references. The overall composition probably derives from high art representations of the Last Supper. (E. Wind, ‘Borrowed attitudes in Reynolds and Hogarth’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 2, 1938-9, p. 184)” Online at Wellcome Collection: https://wellcomecollection.org/works/h9nwz8ja?query=election#licenseInformation

 

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