And we’re off: gathering information on financial interests and APPGs

We’ve kickstarted the WhoFundsThem project, and now we have a (tight!) timeline of work

WhoFundsThem is our new project looking to uncover the influence of money in politics. You can donate or volunteer to support this project.  

On Friday, we sent our first batch of requests for information to 25 All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) as part of our WhoFundsThem work. 

This is a test batch to see how well the template we’ve made works as a method for getting information back from APPGs. The new rules require them to make quite a lot of different kinds of information available, and there are 445 APPGs — so we want to ask in a way that makes sense for them, and for us.

We’re asking for this information because we think it’s important to have it openly available for the public benefit. There are loads of possible uses for it: for example, we’d like to improve the APPG membership information we include on the Local Intelligence Hub, but once the information is public, it will be available for all sorts of other projects and individuals to use

To select the lucky 25 APPGs who would make up our test batch, we took Parliament’s A-Z list of all of the APPGs, numbered them, and then randomly generated 25 numbers. The selected APPGs were:

  1. Africa
  2. Denmark
  3. Japan
  4. Poland
  5. South Africa
  6. Tibet
  7. Artificial Intelligence
  8. Arts and Heritage
  9. Biodiversity in the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies
  10. Children of Alcoholics
  11. Deafness
  12. Disability
  13. Ethnic Minority Business Owners
  14. First Do No Harm
  15. Future of Work
  16. Human-Relevant Science
  17. Internet, Communications and Technology
  18. Life Sciences
  19. Microplastics
  20. Packaging Manufacturing Industry
  21. Responsible Vaping
  22. SME (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) House Builders
  23. Sport
  24. Taxation
  25. United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development

On Friday,  we emailed these groups a copy of the template, and informed them that as per the rules they’ve got 28 days to get back to us, making a deadline of Friday 7 June 2024. After this deadline we’ll review the feedback and responses, make any adjustments necessary, and then email the template to all of the remaining 420 APPGs. This should give us responses from every APPG by the middle of July.

Don’t forget, this is just one of the two parts of the WhoFundsThem project. While we’re waiting for APPG responses, we’ll spend the month of May recruiting volunteers, and then in June we’ll begin answering questions for the other stream of the project which looks at the Register of Members’ Financial Interests (RMFI). By mid-July, we’re hoping to have turned those answers into individual summaries for each MP. Then the right of reply process begins: MPs will have a month to respond to our summary of their financial interests.

All being well, as we send off these summaries to MPs, we’ll be able to switch back to looking at APPGs, as the returns from the second batch should be back ready for us to clean and analyse. By the end of August, we should have both clean APPG data and RFMI summaries with MP feedback. We’ll then spend some time auditing this data ready for publication in the autumn.

Well, that’s the plan at least!

If you’re interested in being one of the volunteers who will work on this exciting new project, you have until 28 May to fill in our short application form! On Tuesday evening (14th), we’re hosting a Q&A event to explain more about the project and answer any questions about volunteering. We know not everyone can give up their time, though, so if you want to support projects like these in another way, please consider financially supporting us.

Want to find out more about APPGs? I wrote a blog post last month explaining what APPGs are, how the rules changed, and the impact that change had. 

As ever, if you’re interested in the work we do, make sure you’re signed up to our newsletter. Thanks!