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Wednesday
Nov292017

It's all about the money

Talking about Deborah Arnott (see previous post), I sense ASH is genuinely concerned about future funding from the Department of Health.

A day after Lord Rennard and Lord Faulkner tabled questions concerning grants for organisations to support for the government's new tobacco control plan (see Please, minister, we want some more), the government has published replies by health minister Stephen Brine to four very similar questions tabled by Bob Blackman MP.

Blackman's first question, which is almost identical to one of two questions tabled by Faulker, read:

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, whether the grant competition to support implementation of the Tobacco Control Plan for England will contain provisions for future year funding to cover the full length of the Plan from 2017 to 2022.

In comparison Faulkner's read:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether any plans to support implementation of the Tobacco Control Plan for England will contain provisions for future year funding to cover the full length of the Plan from 2017 to 2022.

You can see what they're up to. They want a commitment from government for funding not for one year but FIVE. Nice work if you can get it.

Responding to Blackman's question, health minister Stephen Brine has replied:

The Department is still considering the scope and procurement process for grants to support the implementation of the Tobacco Control Plan. Cabinet Office standards require all new grants to be subject to competition. Our intention is to make any future grant available on a multi-year basis, subject to an appropriate business case and satisfactory performance on the part of the funded bodies.

Blackman's other questions – with Brine's answers in italics – were:

To ask the Secretary of State, what plans his Department has to open the competition for the grant to support implementation of the Tobacco Control Plan for England this year.

The Department is still considering the scope and procurement process for grants to support the implementation of the Tobacco Control Plan. Cabinet Office standards require all new grants to be subject to competition. Our intention is to make any future grant available on a multi-year basis, subject to an appropriate business case and satisfactory performance on the part of the funded bodies.

To ask the Secretary of State, when his Department plans to complete the approvals process to enable the competition for a grant to support implementation of the Tobacco Control Plan to proceed.

The Department is still considering the scope and procurement process for grants to support the implementation of the Tobacco Control Plan. Cabinet Office standards require all new grants to be subject to competition. Our intention is to make any future grant available on a multi-year basis, subject to an appropriate business case and satisfactory performance on the part of the funded bodies.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how much his Department has budgeted for 2017-18 for a grant to support implementation of the Tobacco Control Plan for England.

The Department is still considering the scope and procurement process for grants to support the implementation of the Tobacco Control Plan. Cabinet Office standards require all new grants to be subject to competition. Our intention is to make any future grant available on a multi-year basis, subject to an appropriate business case and satisfactory performance on the part of the funded bodies.

Like Rennard and Faulkner, Bob Blackman has a very close relationship with ASH, being chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health which ASH runs. Reynard and Faulkner are also vice-chairmen of the APPG so this is almost certainly a move coordinated by ASH to determine future funding.

If so it indicates a nervousness I've not seen before.

The irony of course is that any grant ASH receives from the DH will come with a clear stipulation that it cannot be used to lobby government.

Lobbying, however, is what ASH is particularly good at – hence this sudden burst of activity. So here's another question:

What part of ASH's funding is currently being used to lobby government to grant the group funds to support the government's tobacco control plan?

Tricky, isn't it? Perhaps it would be best to exclude ASH from the process entirely so there is no confusion.

Either way, may I suggest that public health minister Steve Brine changes his Twitter banner as a matter of urgency?

It currently features the CEO of a certain anti-smoking lobby group that is seeking a grant from the Department of Health in what should be an impartial bidding process.

That process should not only be fair, it should be seen to be fair and impartial. Just a thought.

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Reader Comments (1)

Now there’s something that I’ve never understood. Surely, the moment a recipient of public funds actually does any lobbying, then they are misusing those funds. Because even if they spend exactly the amount of public funds they’ve received on non-lobbying activities, then that simply means that more of their other funds are available for lobbying purposes, so that whilst the public funds may not be directly used for lobbying, they are in fact enabling it. So, how do the powers-that-be square that circle in order to “permit” the ongoing allocation of public funds to a lobbying organisation such as ASH?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 at 23:02 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

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