Shelter calls on government to stop using its name in connection with the anti-lobbying clause

The housing charity says it was not aware its name would be used by the Cabinet Office in announcements relating to the clause

The housing charity Shelter has asked the government to stop using its name in connection with the controversial anti-lobbying clause.

In February, the Cabinet Office announced that a clause would be inserted into all new or renewed central government grant agreements to prevent such funds from being used to lobby or attempt to influence parliament, local government or political parties.

In its statement announcing the clause, the department said Shelter was an example of a charity that had been operating under its terms as part of a pilot run by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

But a letter sent last week to Matthew Hancock, the Cabinet Office minister, from Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said the charity was uncomfortable with government ministers using its name when defending the clause.

In the letter, Robb said that the project for which Shelter receives DCLG funding, the National Homelessness Advice Service, was a partnership with Citizens Advice that "sits separately from Shelter’s mainstream services".

The letter said: "At the time of the announcement, and on occasions since then, government representatives have used Shelter’s name in defence of this new policy. The grounds for mentioning Shelter are that we have already been subject to these rules as part of a pilot within the DCLG, and that this has not prevented us from using our own funds to lobby government on housing policy.

"This is a misrepresentation of the situation and it came as a complete surprise to us to be referenced in this way. As such, I request that the government cease referring to Shelter in this context in future.

"I accept that it is the case that Shelter’s grant agreement with DCLG contains this clause, and that we do continue to lobby government on housing policy. However, the use of Shelter’s name implies that we have given our blessing to this initiative, when in fact we were never made aware that we were participating in a pilot and have at no time been asked whether the clause has any impact on our lobbying work."

The letter also said: "As we don’t feel it is representative, we are very uncomfortable with it being used to justify placing restrictions on other, potentially very different charities and projects. In other contexts the clause may well impact on a charity’s (including Shelter’s) ability to lobby government, and a lot will depend on how it is enforced by government departments."

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said it had received the letter and would reply in due course. 

Charlotte Ravenscroft, head of policy at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: "It’s good that Shelter has made its views known. It's clear that the government has no real evidence for this policy. The only effect of the clause will be to deter charities from providing legitimate feedback to MPs and civil servants."

The clause was due to be implemented from 1 May but the government decided to pause the clause’s introduction last week while it reviewed representations from interested parties.

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