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Charities stand together against lobbying silence

Open letter contents that the clause is at odds with the government's historical position on the role of voluntary organisations

11 February 2016

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Charity leaders from more than 130 bodies have written to the prime minister to ask him to rethink the proposal to stop charities who receive state funding from lobbying the government.

'We support the principle that taxpayers' money must be well spent. And it is because of this that these proposals are flawed in principle, for they may actually cost the taxpayer more money through limiting the range of insight that policy makers can draw upon,' the letter reads.

The government announced on 6 February that a new clause will be inserted into all new and renewed grant agreements given to charities, stopping them from using state funds from lobbying for new regulation or further government funding.

The Cabinet Office decided on the move following research conducted by the Institute of Economic Affairs, which revealed that 'sock puppet' pressure groups are being funded by charities to lobby government.

The new clause reads: 'The following costs are not eligible expenditure: payments that support activity intended to influence or attempt to influence parliament, government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action.'

The charity leaders contest that 'the clause itself is drawn incredibly widely and could have a far broader impact' than was originally intended.

Matthew Hancock, minister for the Cabinet Office, said the clauses are 'common sense rules' needed to 'protect freedom of speech'.

'Taxpayers' money must be spent on improving people's lives and spreading opportunities, not wasted on the farce of government lobbying government.

'These common sense rules will protect freedom of speech, but taxpayers won't be made to foot the bill for political campaigning and political lobbying.

However, the charity leaders write that the clause will stifle democracy and is odds with the Tory party's historical position on the role of voluntary organisations.

'As prime minister you have recognised that voluntary organisations play a crucial role in our democracy. Indeed, these proposals are at odds with the entire framework under which your government has sought to develop sound working relationships with voluntary organisations.'

 

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