A group of sector representative bodies and charities have written to The Times calling for the government to end the use of gagging clauses in its contracts.
Last week, the newspaper highlighted the use of gagging clauses in a Department for Work and Pensions article published on its front page.
Sector representative bodies have raised concerns about the inclusion of such clauses in government contracts over a number of years. However, the government has so far refused to remove them.
A letter published in The Times today, signed by 11 organisations including the charity leaders body Acevo and the policy and publishing charity the Directory of Social Change, argues that anti-advocacy clauses in government contracts have the potential to "prevent civil society speaking out on behalf of vulnerable people".
They argue that "civil society does not exist solely to provide services" and it is also there to give "voice to the concerns of those people and communities who often go unheard".
The letter says that campaigning and advocacy by charities and civil society organisations has "changed minds and improved lives, from the introduction of the smoking ban and the plastic bag tax through to patient panels in the health sector".
It also cites the example of universal credit, the government’s controversial benefits payment system, as an example of a policy "where it’s more important than ever that charities are free to represent a range of voices".
The letter concludes by calling on the government to end the use of gagging clauses "across all government departments" and allow sector organisations to "speak truth to power".
The letter is signed by the following sector leaders on behalf of their organisations:
• Vicky Browning, chief executive, Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations
• Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive, Directory of Social Change
• Craig Bennett, chief executive, Friends of the Earth
• Kathy Evans, chief executive, Children England
• Claire Godfrey, head of policy and campaigns, Bond
• Julia Kaufmann, chair, Small Charities Coalition
• Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, chief executive, Christian Aid
• Polly Neate, chief executive, Shelter
• Paul Parker, recording clerk, Quakers in Britain
• Paul Streets, chief executive, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales
• Sue Tibballs, chief executive, Sheila McKechnie Foundation