Archive for March, 2016

Who funds the anti-planning think-tanks?

In recent letters to the charity magazine Third Sector and the Observer I have been critical of how some think-tanks report their funding. I asked who funds them and whose interests they sustain.

This is an important question for CPRE because for the last ten years three think-tanks, Policy Exchange, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the Adam Smith Institute have waged a campaign to weaken the planning system and, in particular, Green Belt protection. There have been umpteen pamphlets, newspaper articles, seminars, and private lunches and dinners, often with ministers.

The campaign has been all too successful and we are living with the results. But we do not know who pays for it. All three organisations are secretive about their funding. The website rates think-tanks from A to E according to the transparency of their reporting. Policy Exchange (see p. 11) and the IEA are rated D, the Adam Smith Institute is rated E.

My assumption is that the campaign is funded by individuals and businesses who stand to make serious money out of a weakened planning system, and who gain credibility by hiding behind supposedly disinterested think-tanks. In my Observer letter I wrote: “I would not believe a word these think-tanks say until they say who is paying them to say it.”

CPRE has, of course, fought back – see, for instance, Policy-based Evidence Making: the Policy Exchange’s war against planning from 2006 or last year’s Green Belt myth-buster. And we also have generous funders (see below).

But there is a big difference between funding a conservation organisations like CPRE and giving money to the think-tanks I was criticising. Continue reading ‘Who funds the anti-planning think-tanks?’

On my ‘completely inaccurate picture of labour on British farms’: a response to the NFU

The NFU President has responded to my Countryman column about working conditions on UK farms – reproduced here. In a letter in this month’s magazine, Meurig Raymond says that I paint “a completely inaccurate picture of labour on British farms.

“Over 90% of the jobs in the sector are paid above National Minimum Wage – so we are not a low-paying industry. We are also the only UK industry with its own government agency – the GLA [Gangmasters Licencing Authority] – which works with farmers to protect workers and prevent exploitation…. Agriculture is actually leading the way and should be held up as an example of best practice to other sectors of UK industry where labour use is not monitored.”

I am grateful to Meurig Raymond for responding. I am a strong supporter of UK farming will continue to buy British food and, wherever possible, local food. I never buy imported meat and I am boringly obsessive about seasonality.

But it is hard to square Meurig Raymond’s defence with Felicity Lawrence’s reports on British farmers using what amounts to slave labour (the problems in the food processing sector are even worse). A few bad apples? Then let’s hear the condemnation. The NFU’s opposition to the Agricultural Wages Board also undermines its claim to uphold ‘best value’.

My response to the NFU follows. It will appear in the next issue of the Countryman. Continue reading ‘On my ‘completely inaccurate picture of labour on British farms’: a response to the NFU’