Source: The Guardian, 3 December 2016
Having worked with funding from government departments and charities I was horrified to read about this ‘anti-advocacy clause’ in February 2016. It undermines independence and authenticity. It’s not completely new as I have seen and operated under such a clause in project-funding. I have written about various sources of funding in education (Making better protestors). It has always been a concern of colleagues to be clear about what you are being given permission to say. This particular attack can be seen in the context of the ‘silencing of experts’ but the u-turn is obviously very welcome. With this quote below I highlight how the proposal came about and the calls for an enquiry. It is clear that the current government is using these right-wing organisations and not the civil service (which it has decimated) – and not consulting properly before shouting off about crack-pot policy ideas.
The anti-advocacy clause, which ministers claimed was introduced after extensive research, was based on three slim pamphlets published by the rightwing Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) thinktank. It argued that many charities were “sock puppets” in effect paid by government to justify the introduction of new policies.
But the clause was attacked and ridiculed by opposition politicians, charities and academics. The Labour MP Margaret Hodge, at the time the chair of the public accounts committee, said the clause “smelled of Stalinism”.
Ward called for an inquiry into how the thinktank persuaded the government to float the gagging idea. He said: “The research community was shocked by the original proposal in February to prevent research grants from being used to inform policymaking, after the Cabinet Office was lobbied by the IEA.
“I am glad that the research community has petitioned and overturned the wrong-headed regulations. There should now be an inquiry into why the Cabinet Office drafted such poor regulations in response to a campaign by a group of free market fundamentalists who keep their sources of funding secret and whose research is nothing more than propaganda for their extreme ideological agenda.”