Charity bodies urge Cabinet Office to reconsider anti-lobbying clause

The Charity Finance Group, the LGBT Consortium and Voice4Change England have written to minister Matthew Hancock, calling on him to publish an assessment of the effect on disadvantaged groups

Cabinet Office
Cabinet Office

A group of charity bodies have written to the government calling on it to reconsider the anti-lobbying clause and asking for it to publish its assessment of the effect the policy will have on disadvantaged groups.

The Charity Finance Group, the LGBT Consortium and Voice4Change England have written a joint letter to Matthew Hancock, the minister for the Cabinet Office, urging the government to drop the "unnecessary new clause", which will be inserted into all central government grant agreements to prevent such funds from being used to lobby.

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

The joint letter, sent today, says the groups are particularly concerned about the impact the clause will have on disadvantaged groups, such as people with disabilities, those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds and those from LGBT communities

"These groups are often adversely impacted by government policies due to a lack of communication and consultation between policy-makers about the needs of these groups," the letter says.

"This clause will restrict the work of charities that work on their behalf and receive government funding, feeding back on the implementation of government policy and ensuring that future policies are designed with their needs in mind.

"It will also have a wider ‘chill factor’ on the sector with charities that receive public funding holding back from speaking up on behalf of beneficiaries for fear of being accused of misusing public money."

The letter adds: "We also hope, as part of the recently announced pause and consultation, that you will release the assessment the Cabinet Office made of the impact the new clause would have on disadvantaged groups, in line with the public sector equality duty enshrined in the Equality Act 2010.

"We want to know what consideration the Cabinet Office gave to the impact of this clause on disadvantaged groups and how it is in keeping with the government’s policy objective to ensure that the voices of disadvantaged people are heard."

The letter says the clause breaches the stipulation in the Compact that the government will respect and uphold the independence of civil society organisations to deliver their mission, regardless of any relationship, financial or otherwise, that might exist.

"The new clause prohibits spending on ‘attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grant’," the letter says. "It is difficult to see how this undertaking can be followed without breaching the new clause."

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

Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, has previously rejected claims that the new clause breaches the Compact.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the charity chief executives body Acevo and Social Enterprise UK have also today written a joint letter to the Cabinet Office setting out what they believe a review of the clause should cover.

The three bodies are not releasing the text of the letter, but said in a joint statement: "Our hope and expectation is that the government will commit to a thorough and open consultation process.

"This would be an opportunity for it to put forward its own case, and any revised proposals, in a proper and transparent way so they can be fully scrutinised and commented on.
"Ministers have already acknowledged that the government holds little evidence on which to base their policy, that its blanket implementation was not appropriate, and that the government has not yet attempted to assess the impact it may have on disadvantaged groups.

"An equality impact assessment and independent evaluation of the impact of the clause to date should clearly be part of the next steps."

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