Should charities which get government cash be barred from campaigning against policy?

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​Charities claim the UK government is trying to gag them - ministers say they're looking after the public purse. Who is right?

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12th February 2016 by Graham Martin 4 Comments

Should charities which receive government funding be allowed to campaign against policies they don’t agree with?

Poll results (total votes: 129)

Should charities which receive government funding be allowed to campaign against policies they don’t agree with?
Answer:
Yes
Votes:
102
Ratio:
79.07%
Answer:
No
Votes:
27
Ratio:
20.93%

There was fury across the third sector this week after it was announced that the UK government is preparing to slap what has been called a  “gagging order” on charities.

Ministers have decreed that all Whitehall departments must include a clause when grants are given out to charities which stipulates the money must not be used to campaign against or lobby the government.

This has been widely criticised as an attempt to silence charities which have been critical of, for example, Tory austerity policies.

A group of 130 charities, including the likes of Oxfam and Save The Children, has opposed the plans, as has the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

However, the Tories are sticking to their guns, saying that giving cash which is used to try to influence policy amounts to “government lobbying government”, which represents a waste of public cash.

So, who is correct?

Should charities which receive government funding be allowed to campaign against policies they don’t agree with?

Vote now and contribute to the debate by leaving a comment.

Comments

12th February 2016 by David Robertson

I can see why organisations funded solely by government should not be in a position to actively lobby but most organisation receive government grants as part of a portfolio of funding and ought not to be restricted in expressing robust views and campaigning for the change they see as necessary to meet their wider aims. As long as an organisation can show that campaign money is coming from a non-government source they should be free to campaign in pursuit of a public good.

14th February 2016 by Ruchir

When a 100% government funded charity is invited by parliament to discuss what it has learned from its service, this will influence and could challenge government policy. Should it therefore politely decline this request? Or perhaps send a volunteer?

23rd February 2016 by Alastair Cameron

The question shouldn't even arise. Only a government that feels it is above criticism can come up with such an idea. Charity work learns from the sharp end about all sorts of issues - health, housing, prisons, poverty and so on. Does the government not want to know which of its policies are making the problems worse? We were always told Big Brother came from the left...

8th March 2016 by Andrew Lindsay

When you consider charities like Energy Action Scotland (EAS), which is part funded by the Scottish Government, a "gagging clause" makes no sense. Part of EAS' job is to hold the government to account when it comes to fuel poverty policy as they are a campaigning organisation. How can they hold the government to account if they cant comment on policy? Its a ridiculous concept. Third sector organisations, publically funded or not, should always have the right to comment on policy and hold governments to account. It what makes a healthy civil society.