Wednesday, 27 October 2010

About Government Lobbying Government

Forest's new report, Government lobbying Government, shows the amount of public money used to fund organisations, including charities, that campaign in favour of smoking restrictions. 

Highlights (lifted from report)
  • Action on Smoking and Health (ASH UK) received a direct grant of £142, 000 from the Department of Health in 2009 (£191,000 in 2008 and £210,400 in 2007). In addition, it received £110,000 from the Welsh Assembly Government in 2007.
  • In 2008-09, ASH Scotland received total funding of £921,837 from the Scottish Government.
  • In December 2009, ASH Scotland received a £500,000 grant from the BIG Lottery to fund a major three year research project into smoke-free homes in Scotland.
  • ASH Wales received £115,800 from the Welsh Assembly Government (tobacco control services) in 2008-09 and £113,000 in 2007-08.
  • The charity No Smoking Day received £221,600 from the NHS regions (through the Department of Health), £25,000 from NHS Scotland, £8,000 from the Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland and £30,000 from the Welsh Assembly Government Health Promotion Division in 2009-10.
  • The Department of Health does not appear to know how much public money is spent overall on the Smokefree network of tobacco control groups that have developed over the last 10 years.
  • In 2008 Smoke Free North West secured funding totalling almost £1.9 million from the PCTs to “complement core national funding”.
  • The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies has been funded with £3,694,498 over five years, commencing June 2008. It was also awarded a £1.2 million grant to develop and pilot several projects to implement smoking cessation services.[emphasis added]
ASH Scotland is remarkable both for its size (27 staff, as opposed to eight for the UK section) and for the central grant it attracts from the Scottish government, which, last count, was nearly a million pounds. Sheila Duffy claimed last year when giving evidence to the Health & Sport Committee regarding the tobacco display ban that she is not permitted to lobby using government money (she got Cancer Research money for her latest report Beyond Smoke-free, which is outright policy advocacy). This money is used only for carrying through government policy. The grant, over £900,000 last year, enables ASH Scotland to act virtually as an extension of a government department – so why is it designated a charity? The money it gets from the public in the form of voluntary contributions is derisory.

I suspect Sheila Duffy will quarrel with the title of Forest's report and insist that she is meticulous about what she spends on lobbying. However I suspect the public perceives her as a lobbyist in spite of the 2 per cent that her budget allows her to spend on lobbying. ASH Scotland's status as a charity still comes into question, even if the latest External Review was quite uncritical of the organisation's funding and methods (Scottish Government summary of the organisation's findings). Although the organisation might tick a few charitable-sounding boxes, such as trying to narrow health inequalities by its efforts to reduce smoking levels, it has distinct political and policy objectives, and should not be treated as a charitable body. 


Pleas for exemption from the cuts have come from both sides of the border: from Sheila Duffy herself in a letter to the Caledonian Mercury, and from members of the body scattered round various British universities known as the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, in a letter to The Lancet. Both plead the case for continued government funding of smoking cessation (insisting that smoking is 'preventable' in spite of their minimal success in preventing it). The letter to The Lancet concludes by saying:
We declare that we have no conflicts of interest.
Even Sheila hasn't got that much cheek.


Eddie Douthwaite said...

An absolute disgrace that the purveyors of hatred should be given public money to do so.

Anonymous said...

So the taxpayers are paying for fake charities to tell them what to do.

My tax as a smoker pays for me to get excluded from society.

Surely this has got to stop.

Anonymous said...

sure are fake charities an they are pervayors of hatred its a wonder smokers aren't forced to wear some kind of card that says IAM a smoker Ash an lancet say they have no conflict of interest then why has there always been a conflict of interest worldwide in some form or another somebody answer me that!