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Public Funding: Focus Groups

Volume 718: debated on Thursday 14 July 2022

13. What assessment he has made of the value for money of the use of funding from the public purse on focus groups. (901056)

I am quite surprised by the answer that I will give to the hon. Gentleman, because listening to citizens and understanding their views from focus groups is more useful than I had thought. Focus group insights helped to drive the extraordinarily high levels of public engagement throughout the covid-19 pandemic. More than 80% of people were aware of key behaviours to keep safe and reduce transmission, and up to 82% said that they trusted the information in our advertising, so although I personally have always been suspicious of focus groups, they showed their value in helping to get the message across during the period of covid.

This week we heard from a voter who had had the unfortunate pleasure of attending one of the focus groups organised by the former Chancellor. He was seething that he had been duped by the former Chancellor’s PR machine. Can the Minister explain how many more Government Departments are using taxpayers’ money for party political propaganda? Surely that is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

It would be quite wrong to use taxpayers’ money for party political processes. Focus groups do not do that; they are focused on how Government policy is presented to the voters. However, if the hon. Gentleman has evidence of malpractice, he should always bring it forward to the full attention of the House.