Report: UK Gov't Spends £Millions Lobbying Itself for Bigger, More Intrusive State

The British government spends hundreds of millions of pounds a year effectively lobbying itself, a new report by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has revealed.

The Sock Doctrine, published Wednesday by the IEA, reveals how the British government, at both a national and a local level, distributes vast amounts of funding on behalf of the taxpayer in order to lobby itself for bigger, more intrusive government.

Numerous government departments are said to provide some, and in a few cases all, funding for charities and lobby groups who then lobby politicians for predominantly left-wing or statist causes, such as a rise in alcohol pricing to lower alcohol abuse, or promoting the importance of international aid spending.

The research also reveals the disturbing left-wing political bias of many state-funded activists.

"Support for left-wing parties," the report claims, "...has risen dramatically in the past fifteen years. Of those prepared to express a political preference, 77% of appointees in charities and quangos declared support for the Labour Party in 2011. In the final year of John Major’s government [1997] this was just 32%."

The report follows two previous IEA studies, Sock Puppets and Euro Puppets, which both illustrated how the British government was handing money away to lobby groups and pro-European Union groups respectively. The latest study comes with a set of recommendations aimed at halting the process, which author Chris Snowdon calls "a subversion of the democratic process."

Snowdon invokes the words of Thomas Jefferson in arguing against the taxpayer-funded lobbying, quoting Jefferson's 1779 statement: "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."

One example cited in the report is that of Save the Children, a UK-registered charity which receives 16.3 percent of its total income from government. Its campaigning activity includes opposition to the government's welfare reforms and the government-coordinated IF campaign supporting ring-fencing of foreign aid. Its Chief Executive Officer and its Policy Director were formerly senior Labour Party advisors.

One campaign group, Balance North East, was awarded £1.4 million from local government sources in 2013, thus receiving 100 percent of its funding from government. It campaigns for a minimum pricing of alcohol per unit.

Commenting on the report, Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

Government lobbying government by using taxpayers’ money to fund special interest groups is both immoral and an inefficient use of public money. By crowding out privately-funded voluntary organisations, this taxpayer-funded bloc of charities, quangos and NGOs subverts the democratic process. It is vital that measures are introduced to prevent state-funded political activism and make taxpayers aware of how their money is being spent. Charities and NGOs that are dependent on government funding are not independent of government.

On this basis, the report argues that organizations which are either partly or wholly in receipt of government funding should be as transparent as any government department in the United Kingdom--that is to say, subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Other recommendations include the idea that no "start-up" funds should be granted to any new non-governmental organizations, charities, or activist groups, and that unrestricted grants should not be given to any third party organisation.


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