Shadow minister criticises ‘shameful’ removal of charity chief from government advisory board

Maternity Action was dropped from a body about pregnancy and maternity discrimination after its chief executive tweeted that the limited scope of the board was ‘disappointing’

Barbara Keeley
Barbara Keeley

The Labour Party has accused the government of “pursuing a vendetta” against a charity chief executive who has been dropped from an advisory board in a row over tweets.

Barbara Keeley, the shadow minister for civil society, also described the decision to remove Maternity Action from the board, first reported in Third Sector last week, as “shameful and short-sighted”.

Maternity Action was invited to be part of a group advising the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy on pregnancy and maternity discrimination last year.

But a minister confirmed in parliament this week that the charity was no longer on that board.

Third Sector has seen evidence that officials told the charity they planned to “press ahead with arranging a second meeting [of the advisory board] without Maternity Action”.

The message referred to a Twitter thread by chief executive Ros Bragg as a reason for this decision.

Bragg tweeted in September that the limited scope of the advisory board was “disappointing”, given that the government had initially promised a much wider review of employment and maternity rights legislation.

Maternity Action said last week that government officials were “well aware” of its views before it was invited to join the board.

Keeley told Third Sector: “The government should be laser-focused on tackling energy bills and the cost-of-living crisis facing families, firms and charities, not pursuing a vendetta against a charity boss because they don’t like her tweets.

“After more than a decade of Tory rule, families are facing the biggest fall in living standards for 70 years. Now more than ever the government should be listening to charities which are supporting people on the sharp end of this crisis.

“Instead they are shutting out voices that refuse to parrot back what they want to hear.

“The echo chamber they are creating is both shameful and short-sighted.”

BEIS did not provide a comment before publication of this story.

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