Culture secretary urged to affirm charities' right to campaign

Vicky Browning of the charity leaders body Acevo tells Oliver Dowden that a 'vocal minority' of MPs are repeatedly questioning legitimate work carried out by charities, particularly on equality

Oliver Dowden (Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor/WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Oliver Dowden (Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The charity leaders body Acevo has called for the culture secretary to publicly affirm charities’ right to campaign amid concern that a “vocal minority” of MPs is persistently trying to stifle them.

In a letter to Oliver Dowden, Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, says she is becoming increasingly concerned that some MPs are repeatedly calling into question the legitimacy of public-facing work that charities undertake in pursuit of their charitable objectives, particularly on equality.

This includes writing to the Charity Commission to complain about work undertaken to raise awareness of inequality or to educate others about it, said Browning.

The move comes after Sir John Hayes, the Conservative MP for South Holland and the Deepings, urged Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, to ensure the government stopped what he called the “worthless work” of organisations “promulgating weird, woke ideas”.

“Worryingly the minister did not respond by pointing out that such an act would be undemocratic,” said Browning.

“I am therefore seeking assurances from you that the government will not try to stop charities and other civil society groups that they disagree with.

“We would appreciate if you could also publicly affirm the right for charities to campaign, even on unpopular or contested causes, as has recently been stated by Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission.”

Browning also noted that she had written to Dowden twice in the past six months seeking assurances that the ongoing recruitment for the next chair of the Charity Commission would not result in a candidate with strong links to any political party.

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