Protecting the Green Belt

Tony Blair, they say, hated the English working class, so he decided to import a new one.  Whether that’s true or not, the fact is that Labour under Blair oversaw immigration on a scale never witnessed before.

John Prescott is famous for saying “The Green Belt is a Labour achievement, and we’re going to build on it”.  Heaven knows what he meant.  But the fact is that Labour’s mass immigration, and the consequent increase in the UK population, mean that we have to have more land for housing and business.  For once I’m agreeing with the Coalition.  They propose to facilitate planning and make more land available, creating a presumption in favour of development, not because they want to; not because they fail to value the Countryside; but because population pressures resulting from Labour’s immigration policies leave them no option.  You can’t take the population from fifty million to sixty, and then on to seventy, without creating a need for more land for housing, schools, hospitals, retail premises and industry.

I am fairly equivocal about two organisations that have taken a stand on this issue, the National Trust and the CPRE.  I’m upset with the NT because it accepts gifts of land with the condition that it will continue to allow hunting, and then just breaks its word.  I’m upset with the CPRE because it supports (broadly and in principle) the nonsense of wind farms blighting our countryside.  But in coming to the defence of the Green Belt, these organisations are arguably fulfilling a proper role.  So perhaps the government is unwise to dismiss their protests as a “smear campaign by left-wingers”.

It does, however, seem somewhat curious that the government would go on such a sharp offensive against these two charities over concerns that appear to be partly justified, but remain completely mute over the ongoing obfuscation and policy manipulation on green issues being perpetrated by charities and non-government organisations that receive considerable funding from the taxpayer.

At both the national and European level, taxpayer funds are being used to push a radical green agenda promulgated by organisations such as WWF and Friends of the Earth.  These groups use these funds to pursue their Green Jihad, lobbying for policies that are economically damaging to domestic and international economic development—especially in the developing world.

Just last month my good colleague Daniel Hannan MEP revealed that Christian Aid, a charity supposed to be alleviating hunger and suffering across the world, was hassling him for donations to lobby against free trade deals.  How fighting against open markets and greater opportunities for trade will help feed the developing world is beyond me.

Unfortunately, in Brussels, using charities to front the Commission’s often destructive policies is, alas, the norm.

According to a recent report by the Taxpayers’ Alliance, the European Commission and the British government distributed “£10.1 million… to a range of environmental groups… in 2009-10.”  The Commission has justified these substantial grants on the premise that they provide a “necessary balance in relation to the interests of other actors… including industry/business, trade unions and consumer groups,” despite evidence to the contrary that they actually increase political apathy among the public.

This is, of course, absurd.

Far from charities and NGOs competing in the marketplace of ideas and representing the interests of their members, many now operate at the whim of unelected bureaucrats seeking to impinge further upon the liberties of consumers across Europe.  The Commission attempts to excuse this action by claiming that through doling out cash they are merely engaging with “civil society.”  It looks to me more like a deeply pernicious attempt to mute potential opposition via the cheque book.

Any organisation that enjoys its charitable status should be out displaying its principles and asking the public for donations rather than willingly offering up their services and impartiality as soon as government – or the European Commission – writes them a cheque.

Charities and NGOs play a crucial role in society through harnessing individual initiative through civil engagement.  Their values and – fundamentally – their independence are a crucial ingredient in the well-being and civil discourse of Member States.  Unfortunately, in the face of growing civil opposition to its bureaucratic-driven agenda – and without a hint of irony – the Commission uses taxpayers’ money to fight back and silence critics.

This has to stop.  The Coalition would do well to spend less time attacking the National Trust and the CPRE, and more time looking at the destructive activity of tax-payer-funded NGOs.

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2 Responses to Protecting the Green Belt

  1. I agree with stopping all taxpayer funding for lobby groups of whichever persuasion as these groups work to deliver policy in favour of any agenda required by the paymaster.

    A classic example is the use of the CPRE to deliver evidence to the Transport Select Committee on Taxes and Charges for Road users.

    Why a group concerned with the protection of rural England would take the time to deliver such evidence is surprising unless they are singing to the government tune.

    A copy of the final report and their evidence can be downloaded:

    Page EV182 refers.

    Our evidence can be found on page EV115

  2. Pingback: Prince Charles finds a new pulpit for green sermonising « Roger Helmer MEP

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