'Anti-advocacy' minister took donation from think tank which lobbied for the clause

'Anti-advocacy' minister took donation from think tank which lobbied for the clause

'Anti-advocacy' minister took donation from think tank which lobbied for the clause2

Governance | David Ainsworth | 18 Feb 2016

A minister who announced a ban on charities advocating with government grant money took a £4,000 gift weeks earlier from the chair of the think tank which lobbied for the policy.

Matt Hancock, minister for the Cabinet Office, announced earlier this month that charitable grants could no longer be used to lobby government, prompting widespread criticism from civil society leaders, who sent a letter to the Prime Minister with more than 140 signatures, calling for the revocation of the clause.

The move follows an earlier announcement of a similar policy by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

In both cases, ministers claimed that the decision was taken because government had previously used charities to lobby itself, and was now instituting this rule to prevent government from lobbying itself.

Both statements praised “extensive research” by the Institute of Economic Affairs, a right-wing free market think tank for bringing the problem to light.

The IEA produced two discussion papers claiming that government used charity as a “sock puppet” to lobby itself - one in 2012, called Sock Puppets: How the government lobbies itself and why, and one in 2014, called The Sock Doctrine - What can be done about state-funded political activism?

Hancock has personally received six separate donations worth £22,000 since 2010 from Neil Record, a businessman and chair of the IEA. The most recent donation was a £4,000 gift in November last year. Record has also given more than £300,000 to the Conservative Party.

The sock puppet research has been widely criticised in the voluntary sector as ideologically flawed and lacking evidence. An analysis published yesterday by Andrew Purkis, a former chair of several of the charities criticised, called the reports “less research than a muddled polemic”.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “The decision to end the farce of government lobbying government was taken based entirely on the advice of civil service officials.

“Reasonable people will know that taxpayers' money should be spent on improving people's lives.”

An IEA spokeswoman said: "Neil Record’s support for Matt Hancock not only predates his elevation to the chairmanship of the IEA, but it also pre-dates Matt Hancock’s promotion to any government post. 

"For the avoidance of doubt, he has never had any commercial or any other lobbying-type relationship with Matt in any of his ministerial posts, nor has he ever discussed his responsibilities in any context that relates to him personally, or his chairmanship of the IEA.  

“He made the donation in a personal capacity, and it was in no way related to the work or activity of the Institute of Economic Affairs which is entirely independent from any political party. No IEA staff member or trustee has met with Matthew Hancock to discuss our sock puppets research.”


Michael Hodgson
18 Feb 2016

Listen, we can't have charities using their expertise and experience to try to influence government, we need companies and bodies like this who can afford to bri... sorry, donate to ministers to ensure they have influence.

Or so a cynical person might say..

Fiona Ellis
Trust Manager
Millfield House Foundation
18 Feb 2016

Andrew Purkis' analysis of this travesty of a report was excellent - measured and coherently argued with proper examples and intellectual content. It was more than the inadequately thought through ideologically driven polemic deserved. But what on earth makes us think that the Minister is interested in evidence or intellect? Alas this is all of a piece with the creeping invasion of VCS independence and the desire to muzzle all critics.


[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear


  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

'Shocking' tribunal decision calls on Friends of the Earth to pay £1m tax bill

23 Jun 2016

Friends of the Earth's chief executive has condemned a tribunal decision instructing it to pay a tax bill...

Cancer Research UK invests in out-of-town superstores after drop in charity shop profits

22 Jun 2016

Cancer Research UK saw profits from its charity shops fall in the year to March 2016, and has responded...

Major funding changes planned at Help for Heroes, according to annual report

21 Jun 2016

Help for Heroes has said that it expects to change how it raises funds, following a decision to close...

Fundraising Regulator confirms it has received first complaint from public

24 Jun 2016

The Fundraising Regulator has received its first complaint from a member of the public, despite the fact...

Charitable foundation to be launched in memory of murdered MP Jo Cox

23 Jun 2016

The family of Jo Cox, the MP killed last week, have announced plans for a foundation to be set up in her...

'Ideal charity' would spend 42 per cent of income on campaigning, fundraising and 'running costs'

23 Jun 2016

The British public’s “ideal charity” would spend 42 per cent of its total income on campaigning,...

Marie Curie appoints digital advisory board

21 Jun 2016

Marie Curie has appointed a digital advisory board to help it build on the successes of its digital transformation...

'Fake' charity app to help migrants at sea has been removed by Apple

21 Jun 2016

An app that claimed to support a charity rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean by enabling users to search...

Facebook looking to make ‘donate’ button available to UK charities this year

23 May 2016

Facebook is looking to roll-out its ‘donate’ button feature to all charity pages at some point this...

Join the discussion


Attending our one day courses is a highly effective way of ensuring new and existing trustees fully understand their role, responsibilities and liabilities.

>> Find out more <<