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Parliament tech group defends independence despite donations from Motorola, IBM and Google

03 Jan 2013
The Houses of Parliament in London

The Parliamentary Internet Communications and Technology Forum (PICTFor) has defended the £150,000 donations it received from third parties in 2012, insisting the funding has not curried favour.

According to a report in The Times a number of parliamentary groups looking into special areas of interest have allowed outside organisations to have a significant impact on their policy in exchange for donations. The report was critical of the groups for not making the funding more transparent.

One of the groups mentioned by the report was PICTFor. PICTFor is the leading all party group in the technology sector in the Houses of Parliament.

The group briefs parliament on the impact of technology legislation and works with the industry to address current or potential problems in the tech sector.

The Times said PICTFor recently lobbied the government to oppose additional obligations on internet operators, and indirectly linked this lobbying to the funds the group was receiving from the tech sector.

However, V3 spoke to Political Intelligence, a private consultancy that acts as the secretariat for the parliamentary group, and it defended the firms' involvement.

"They are paying for access to parliament's programme of events. They're not paying for influence," said Political Intelligence consultant David Talbot.

Talbot argued the group is entirely independent and that it was the group's parliamentary co-chairs that wrote a letter to the government defending internet operators from additional obligations. There was no other lobbying on this issue that involved tech firms, he said.

He added that the maximum amount of funding tech firms are allowed to donate is set as a proportion of their overall revenue.

There are 23 technology firms that donate in total, including many big names such as Intel, Microsoft, Google, IBM Fujitsu, BT, Vodafone and Trend Micro, with most offering around £7,000.

However, Talbot said he did not know why Motorola donated £15,528 to the group at the end of last year, more than double that of any other firm. Motorola has not responded to V3's requests for comment.

The list of firms that donate to PICTFor is publicly available on the parliamentary website, as well as the amount of funding donated.

PICTFor co-chair Chi Onwurah, who is also the shadow minister for innovation and science, also defended the funds the group has been receiving from the private sector.

The funds allow PICTfor to carry out its work, she argued.

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