Moral Maze debates charities - and Twitter reacts

The BBC Radio 4 ethics programme chaired by the veteran broadcaster Michael Buerk questioned the role of charities in today's world with feisty exchanges from both sides of the argument

Michael Buerk hosts the Moral Maze programme
Michael Buerk hosts the Moral Maze programme

Social media users have reacted strongly to a debate hosted on BBC radio that questioned the role of charities in modern society.

Veteran broadcaster Michael Buerk chaired Radio 4's Moral Maze, and was joined by the former Conservative minister Michael Portillo, the senior editor of The Economist, Anne McElvoy, the former Canon of St Paul's Cathedral, Giles Fraser, and the chief executive of the Royal Society for the Arts, Matthew Taylor.

The panel questioned four figures involved in the voluntary sector on issues such as how and on what charities should be allowed to spend their money, the level of executive pay in the sector and whether lobbying and campaigning should be funded by the taxpayer.

The "witnesses" facing the panel included the Third Sector columnist and chief executive of the Directory of Social Change, Debra Allcock Tyler, the founder of the National Coalition for Independent Action, Andy Benson, Christopher Snowdon from the Institue of Economic Affairs and the chief executive of Friends of the Earth, Craig Bennett.

As each person was questioned individually, Twitter users joined the debate using the hashtag #moralmaze, with many from the sector clearly exasperated at the tone and attitude of some on the panel.

The question about whether organisations should separate their campaigning from their charitable activities was one of the most hotly disputed subjects, with those defending charities saying that campaigning was part and parcel of their raison d'être and that most donors knew their donations would be spent on such activiites.

However, backing for charities was by no means universal, with a number of people questioning the effect that large organisations have had. 

Michael Portillo frequently referred to the "quarter-million-pound salaries" paid to charity executives and, although he was not challenged on this during the broadcast, his claims were refuted by Twitter users.

Some users were left unimpressed with the panel's approach, with claims that the members had been 'uninformed'. Ian MacQuillin, director of the think tank Rogare,  summed up what many had thought of the debate:

You can hear the debate in full via the BBC iPlayer

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in
Follow us on:

Latest Policy Jobs

RSS Feed

Third Sector Insight

Sponsored webcasts, surveys and expert reports from Third Sector partners


Expert Hub

Insurance advice from Markel

Charity property: could you be entitled to a huge VAT saving?

Charity property: could you be entitled to a huge VAT saving?

Promotion from Third Sector promotion

When a property is being constructed, VAT is charged at the standard rate. But if you're a charity, health body, educational institution, housing association or finance house, the work may well fall into a category that justifies zero-rating - and you could make a massive saving