POLITICS

Vince Cable Spent £10,800 On Media Training For Business Ministers

11/02/2014 10:12 GMT | Updated 11/02/2014 10:59 GMT
ADRIAN DENNIS via Getty Images
British Business Secretary Vince Cable (R) applauds as Jo Swinson (L), Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs, leaves the stage after speaking at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Brighton on September 26, 2012. The Liberal Democrats' conference in Brighton is seeking to reinvigorate a party bruised by rock-bottom approval ratings after a series of concessions to senior coalition partners the Conservatives. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/GettyImages)

Vince Cable has spent nearly £11,000 since 2010 on media training for his junior ministers at the Department for Business and two senior civil servants, a Freedom of Information request by the Huffington Post UK revealed.

The £10,800 bill for lessons on how to look smooth on camera were given to then employment relations minister Ed Davey, his successor Jo Swinson, skills minister Matthew Hancock and his predecessor John Hayes, as well as business ministers Viscount Younger and Baroness Wilcox.

Willie Bain, Labour member of the Commons business committee, told HuffPostUK: “Businesses, universities and people in work will find it odd that at a time when they were being told to tighten their belts by the Government, that the Department meant to serve their interests was spending more on training Ministers on how to look good in front of the cameras.

"Perhaps if the Department devoted more efforts to getting to grips with the UK’s challenges of low business investment, a persistent trade deficit, weak productivity and falling real wages, BIS Ministers might have a better message to convey to the public when they do appear on the media.”

According to the Business Department's figures, £2,550 was spent on media training in 2010 for Ed Davey, John Hayes, Baroness Wilcox and the department's top civil servant, permanent secretary Martin Donnelly.

The media training in that year was provided by Escott Hunt, who are praised by the Environment Agency for their "invaluable" advice on their website.

The Environment Agency's praise may be ironic given its chairman Lord Smith has been fighting off calls to resign over his refusal to apologise for the devastation caused by the agency's decision 20 years ago to stop dredging rivers on the Somerset Levels.

Escott Hunt was later brought in to provide media training in 2012 for Tera Allas, a top civil servant who is director general for "strategy, analysis and better regulation". Business ministers Matthew Hancock and Jo Swinson's media training in that year, by Millbank Media, brought the final bill for the year to £4950.

Business minister Viscount Younger had media training given by Millbank Media in 2013, which cost £3,300. Three BIS officials also had media training at a cost of £1,023.

Dia Chakravarty, political director of the TaxPayers' Alliance said: "There a disturbing trend across several government departments where a ridiculous amount of taxpayers' money is being wasted on PR training.

"When taxpayers hand-over their hard-earned cash in tax, they expect it to be spent on services, not on making ministers and mandarins more media savvy. BIS should focus on getting cutting the red tape it is responsible rather than wasting taxpayers' money on spin and PR.”

The Business Department said: "All new ministers are offered a short media training package as part of their induction to Government with the aim of helping them to undertake their official duties. Every effort is taken to ensure value for the taxpayer."

The media training list in full

2010 - £2550

• Edward Davey, former Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs: June 2010. The training company used to provide media training was Escott Hunt Ltd.

• John Hayes, former Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning: June 2010. The training company used to provide media training was Escott Hunt Ltd.

• Baroness Wilcox, former Parliamentary Under Secretary for Business, Innovation and Skills: June 2010. The training company used to provide media training was Escott Hunt Ltd.

• Martin Donnelly - Permanent Secretary - December 2010. The training company used to provide media training was Escott Hunt Ltd.

2012 - £4950

• Tera Alas, Director General, Strategy, Analysis and Better Regulation: June 2012. The training company used to provide media training was Escott Hunt Ltd.

• Jo Swinson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs (jointly with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport): October 2012. The training company used to provide media training was Millbank Media.

• Matthew Hancock, Minister for Skills (jointly with Department for Education) Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State: October 2012. The training company used to provide media training was Millbank Media.

2013 - £3300

• Viscount Younger, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills: May 2013. The training company used to provide media training was Millbank media.

Meanwhile, HM Revenue & Customers told HuffPostUK that it has spent approximately £13,000 on training around 50 senior managers, directors and executive committee members for broadcast interviews.

The Treasury revealed that it spent £1,397 on three media training classes for junior Treasury officials, which had "fewer than five officials" attend each session.

This comes after HuffPostUK revealed that Iain Duncan Smith had spent £75,000 on media training for staff at the Department of Work and Pensions and junior welfare minister Lord Freud.

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