Brooks Newmark, the Minister for Civil Society, has pledged to be a strong voice in government for charities – and small charities in particular.
Newmark gave a short speech at a reception hosted by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in London last night, the day after he had been forced to issue a statement yesterday clarifying his view on the campaigning role of charities, after strong criticism from the sector.
Asked at an event on Wednesday by a journalist from The Times whether he agreed with the view of a Charity Commission board member that charities should "stick to their knitting" and stay out of politics, Newmark said: "We really want to try to keep charities and voluntary groups out of the realm of politics."
In his subsequent clarification, Newmark said that he meant party politics.
Newmark, who took up his role in July, told the event yesterday that he had been involved with charities for most of his adult life and insisted "I do get it".
"I am going to be a strong voice for you in government, especially for smaller charities that are feeling squeezed out," he said.
He told the charities present that in the run-up to next year’s general election charities should take their manifesto requests "to me and also to Lisa Nandy, and to – well I’m not quite sure who the Lib Dem person is".
He said: "You are the experts – as the minister, I expect you to tell me not only about the challenges, but also about the solutions. I want to have your ideas."
He also praised the National Citizen Service and the confidence it gave young people, and began his speech by joking: "I haven’t brought my knitting needles."