Here's his submission to Communities and Local Government.
Steven Baker (Wycombe, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what his Department's policy is on the (a) grant to and (b) use by registered charities of funding from his Department for the purposes of advocacy, lobbying or campaigning; and if he will make a statement.Responding, Brandon Lewis makes a few interesting points (emphases mine).
Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth, Conservative)
Ministers believe that it is inappropriate for taxpayers' money to subsidise such campaigning activity.
Grants to external bodies outline how the funds should be spent and typically include a standard condition that the funds provided should not be spent on activities of a political nature. If hon. Members have concerns that grant recipients are acting inappropriately, Ministers would welcome this being brought to our attention. More broadly, since May 2010, my Department has taken steps to:
Cancel all lobbying contracts held by our Department's public bodies, to stop the practice (common under the last Administration) of government lobbying government;
Introduce a new “Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity” to tackle the use of lobbyists by local authorities;
Publish online all departmental and arm’s length body spending over £500 (now moving to £250) to facilitate greater public scrutiny and accountability of the organisations we fund.
The activities of registered charities are also governed by the Charities Act and guidance issued by the Charity Commission.It all sounds very promising, doesn't it?
That it is inappropriate for taxpayers' money to subsidise campaigning is pretty obvious, but it's good that politicians are finally realising that fact and - at least on the surface - saying they will do something about it. It's encouraging too that Lewis claims his department is attempting to "stop the practice of government lobbying government".
Of course, we're all well aware of a case recently where nearly half a million pounds flowed from government coffers to an offshoot of the state to lobby and campaign for just one proposed state policy. The exact definition of 'government lobbying government', if ever one was needed. In fact, so much of our taxes do these kinds of state-funded entities receive that MPs have trouble keeping track of it all.
There is also a high profile charity, to which government has been shovelling cash for over four decades, which does nothing else but "advocacy, lobbying or campaigning".
Baker has so far received responses from three identical questions like the one above. The other two were from the DfT and the DfID. As I understand it, MPs are only allowed a certain number of written questions per day so, if Baker has taken to asking this of all departments, there could be more to come.
The Department of Health's response could be a corker, don't you think?