Call for exemption for universities from new ban on influencing policy after petition reaches 10,000 signatures
The UK Government should announce an exemption for researchers in universities and research institutes from a draconian new rule that prevents Government grants from being used to influence policy, according to a letter made public today (11 April 2016) by Bob Ward, the policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Mr Ward has written to the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, after an official petition he launched calling for the exemption reached 10,000 signatures, and consequently requires a response from the Government.
The petition warns that the so-called “anti-lobbying clause”, which is due to be included in the terms and conditions of all Government grants awarded from 1 May 2016, will be “bad for policy-making, bad for the public interest and bad for democracy” if it applies to universities and research institutes.
The letter states: “It will not be in the public interest to prevent government grants for research in universities and research institutes from being used to influence policy-making. It will make it much more difficult, for instance, for researchers in receipt of Government funding to engage with Ministers like yourself, civil servants, Parliamentarians, local government officials, representatives of political parties, and regulators.”
The letter adds: “It will create a significant barrier for researchers in receipt of Government funding to responding to Government consultations and Parliamentary inquiries, and even letters from Ministers. It will severely reduce the evidence base on which policy decisions would be made, and will cut off a hugely valuable source of independent expert advice for policy-makers. In short, it will be bad for policy-making, bad for the public interest and bad for democracy.”
Drawing attention to the lack of awareness among researchers of the consequences of the new regulation, the letter states: “The failure of the Cabinet Office to be upfront about the application of this draconian new regulation to grants to researchers in universities and research institutes means that many of those who will be affected have not yet realised the full implications. However, an official petition that I launched calling for an exemption for universities and research institutes has now gained more than 10,000 signatures, and requires a response from the Government (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/122957). In addition, I know that many organisations, such as Universities UK and Research Councils UK, which were not originally consulted about the potential impacts of the new clause, have been making the case for an exemption.”
The letter concludes: “Given that there is now less than a month until it is due to take effect, I urge you to announce, without delay, that universities and research institutes will be exempt from the new ‘anti-lobbying’ clause. I understand from recent media reports that the Government may seek to use the purdah ahead of the local elections, which begins on 14 April, as an excuse not to make a statement on this issue. However, I hope you will appreciate the importance of the exemption being announced before the clause is due to take effect.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
- The ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (http://www.cccep.ac.uk/) is hosted by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/). The Centre’s mission is to advance public and private action on climate change through rigorous, innovative research.
- The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (http://www.lse.ac.uk/grantham) was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment (http://www.granthamfoundation.org/).