14 April 1995

Ministrys publicity budget is attacked

MAFFs publicity budget has come under fire in a Liberal Democrat attack on government public relations spending.

LibDem Treasury spokesman Malcolm Bruce says the government is now spending more than £250m a year on advertising and publicity – a rise of 25% in two years and of 367% since the Tories came into office in 1979.

In his league of top spenders in 1994/95, Mr Bruce puts MAFFs £9.8m spend at 11th out of 13, with health (£58m), trade (£25m) and defence (£21.4m) departments topping the table.

He adds ADAS has almost doubled its spending on publications in two years, to £250,000 including £50,000 on its agricultural strategy publication last year.

Mr Bruce is calling for an independent investigation. "With an election coming up, and the Conservative Party coffers bare, there must be a real suspicion that this big rise in advertising is a way of using public funds to get the Conservative Party re-elected. That really would be a scandal," he says.

But a Central Office of Information spokesman maintains there has been no overall increase in government spending on advertising in recent years.

Gleaned from replies

The LibDem figures, gleaned from replies to various Parliamentary questions, cover expenditure on many types of publicity, public relations and publications as well as advertising, he says.

There is no question that taxpayers money is being spent other than on promoting taxpayers interests and telling citizens what action government is taking as government, says the COI.