The communities secretary Eric Pickles, told parliament last week (End Feb 2015) that his department had added an ‘anti-lobbying, anti-sock puppet clause’ to its standard grant agreements.
Pickles’s statement said: “The Institute of Economic Affairs has undertaken extensive research on so-called ‘sock puppets’* has exposed the extensive practice of taxpayers’ money being given to pressure groups and supposed charities, in turn being used to lobby the government and parliament for more money and more regulation. This is an issue which needs to be addressed.”
He has amended his department’s grant agreements with this clause, “The following costs are not eligible expenditure: payments that support activity intended to influence or attempt to influence parliament, government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action.”
Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the charity leaders group Acevo said: “Let’s be clear what influencing means here: charities must be free to speak about the injustices they see on the ground, whether they are contracting with government or not. And governments should be willing to listen, not close their ears to the effects of their policies.”
* “Sock puppet” – a false online identity, typically created by a person or group in order to promote their own opinions or views.
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