ACEVO CEO SIR STEPHEN BUBB: Matthew Hancock Must Publish Meeting Logs and Clear Up Opaque Gagging Law Picture

Commenting on today’s statement  by Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock that he ‘had no discussions with the IEA’ (Institute of Economic Affairs) prior to implementing their own policy ideas, ACEVO CEO Sir Stephen Bubb said:

‘The Minister’s statement raises serious questions. He claimed quite clearly on the floor of the house that he had ‘no discussions with the IEA.’ However given that the policy was proposed by the IEA’s own reports, why would the Minister not think it appropriate to discuss these matters with either the IEA, their employees, or their chair – with whom he had a long-standing financial relationship – beforehand? Furthermore, given that we know that the IEA had conversations with the regulator prior to publication, and the regulator’s Chair is appointed by the Minister’s office, why would the Minister not think it prudent to enjoin both the regulator and the IEA in those conversations?

‘We are concerned that the facts as reported present an opaque picture. That is why, in the interests of transparency, probity and freedom of information, the Minister must now commit to disclose full details of meetings with both the IEA and the Charity Commission that pertain to the anti-advocacy clause.  We would also welcome a further statement of clarification on the Minister’s answer today.

‘The Minister further claimed that the regulation is about preventing ‘lobbying over lunches’ by charities of government; this is an unfortunate misunderstanding of the harm his clause will cause as it is. We hope and trust that, if the Minister did indeed refuse to listen to the IEA prior to the implementation of their own policy idea, he will at least do the right thing, listen to the 140 organisations who wrote to the Prime Minister explaining the harm his actions have already begun to cause, and withdraw this harmful regulation.’

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