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Charities' letter to the prime minister on anti-advocacy clauses in grant agreements

10 February 2016

The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

Dear Prime Minister

Anti-advocacy clauses

We are writing following the publication of Cabinet Office guidelines to prohibit organisations in receipt of grant funding from influencing government or parliament. The proposed guidance would prevent the use of funding to inform public policy and bans organisations also from discussing issues related to the work funded by the grant with government officials or parliamentarians.  

You have long recognised that voluntary organisations play a much needed role in policy development and regulatory reform. Facilitated by the open policy making approach you have championed, voluntary organisations bring the real-world experience of users and evidence-based expertise into public policy debate.

We support the principle that taxpayers’ money must be well spent. And it is because of this that these proposals are flawed in principle, for they may actually cost the taxpayer more money through limiting the range of insight that policy makers can draw upon.

Organisations funded by government have helped to reform and improve public services. They have held providers to account and brought to public attention failures that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Much of this work can and does save taxpayers money, contrary to the assertions of the report cited as evidence for the introduction of the proposals. The clause itself (published on 8 February on is drawn incredibly widely and could have a far broader impact than your original intention.

For example, in October 2015, you announced a £5m grant fund for charities as part of the government’s counter-extremism strategy. As currently drafted, the new clause will undermine the ability of these charities to feed in valuable insights that may help government – those working on programmes receiving any grant funding would be prohibited from speaking to MPs about developments in their local area, suggesting improvements to policy or legislation, responding to your government’s own consultations, meeting ministers to discuss broader issues and evidence from their programme or even from giving evidence if called by a select committee.

Another example is that of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Awareness of FGM, and the action which has subsequently been taken against this, has occurred primarily due to the work of key charities which, thankfully, were in receipt of government funding. This clause would almost certainly have prohibited that vital initiative.

In your first speech as leader of the Conservative party you set out how you wanted to ‘set free the voluntary sector and social enterprises to deal with the linked problems that blight so many of our communities, of drug abuse, family breakdown, poor public space, chaotic home environments, high crime’. You have repeatedly reiterated your commitment to social justice, which depends upon building alliances of grassroots organisations. To say to those organisations that government will work in partnership with them but if they do, they will not be heard, is surely contrary to those commitments. And only this week you set out your ambitions for the reform of the prison service. Charities have been at the forefront of campaigning for such reforms for decades. It would be a tragedy if in future such critical advocacy work were inhibited.

Both Parliament and government play an important role in addressing these issues, and it is important that they remain well informed about how policies and programmes are making a difference on the ground.

As Prime Minister you have recognised that voluntary organisations play a crucial role in our democracy. Indeed, these proposals are at odds with the entire framework under which your government has sought to develop sound working relationships with voluntary organisations.

The Compact, which you signed in 2010, remains an important signifier of government commitment to working effectively with the voluntary and community sector. In signing it you committed government to:

Respect and uphold the independence of civil society organisations to deliver their mission, including their right to campaign, regardless of any relationship, financial or otherwise, which may exist.

We believe that a strong, effective working relationship between voluntary organisations and the state, based upon mutual respect and understanding, is beneficial to the people of this country and beyond. The ability of voluntary organisations to campaign, regardless of any financial relationship, is a defining characteristic of this relationship. Abandoning this protection is surely not the intended consequence of these proposals, as their impact runs contrary to the relationship you have sought to develop. As such, we urge you to reconsider them and work with the voluntary sector to find a constructive way forward.

Yours sincerely

Sir Stephen Bubb, Chief Executive, Acevo
Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive, NCVO
Dr John Low CBE, Chief Executive, Charities Aid Foundation
Caron Bradshaw, Chief Executive, Charity Finance Group
Sally Light, Chief Executive, Motor Neurone Disease Association
Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive, Hospice UK
Bridget Doogan, Chief Executive, St John of God Hospice
Julie Bentley, Chief Executive, Girl Guiding
Barbara Frost, Chief Executive, WaterAid
Richard Leaman, Chief Executive, Guide Dogs
Janet Morrison, Chief Executive, Independent Age
Tim Cooper, Chief Executive, United Response
Mark Goldring, Chief Executive, Oxfam
Paul Streets, Chief Executive, Lloyds Bank Foundation
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive, Alzheimer's Society
David McCullough, Chief Executive, Royal Voluntary Service
Matt Hyde, Chief Executive, Scouts Association
Susan Daniels, Chief Executive, NDCS
Heidi Travis, Chief Executive, Sue Ryder
Rob Owen OBE, Chief Executive, St Giles Trust
Mark Simms, Chief Executive, P3 Charity
Girish Menon, Chief Executive, ActionAid
Debbie Bannigan, Chief Executive, Swanswell
Michael Adamson, Chief Executive, British Red Cross
Jonathan Senker, Chief Executive, VoiceAbility
Mark Atkinson , Chief Executive, Scope
Nick Caplin, Chief Executive, Blind Veterans UK
Martin Houghton-Brown, Chief Executive, DePaul Charity
Campbell Robb, Chief Executive, Shelter
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive, Crisis
Malcolm Shepherd CBE, Chief Executive, Sustrans
David Hughes, Chief Executive, Learning and Work Institute
Beccy Speight, Chief Executive, Woodland Trust
Sara Llewellin, Chief Executive, Barrow Cadbury Trust
Neil Cleeveley, Chief Executive, NAVCA
Jacob Tas, Chief Executive, NACRO
Loretta Minghella, Chief Executive, Christian Aid
Ben Jackson, Chief Executive, BOND
David Cutler, Chief Executive, Baring Foundation
David Emerson CBE, Chief Executive, Assn of Charitable Foundations
David Warner, Chief Executive, London Funders
Jeremy Taylor, Chief Executive, National Voices
Julian Corner, Chief Executive, Lankelly Chase Foundation
Kathy Evans, Chief Executive, Children England
Moira Sinclair, Chief Executive, Paul Hamlyn Foundation
Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive, Social Enterprise UK
Susanne Rauprich, Chief Executive, National Council for Voluntary Youth Services
Jon Barrick, Chief Executive, Stroke Association
Mark Lever, Chief Executive, National Autistic Society
Samantha Goodwin, Mktg & Comms Mgr, Real Life Options
David Miller, Director, Spinwatch
John Knights, Head of Operations, Sheila McKechnie Foundation
Janine Tregelles, Chief Executive, Mencap
Stephen Deuchar, Chief Executive, Art Fund
Michael Gidney, Chief Executive, Fairtrade
Alexandra Runswick, Chief Executive, Unlock Democracy
Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive, Relate
Ratna Dutt, Chief Executive, Race Equality Foundation
David Bull, Chief Executive, UNICEF
Martin Wyn Griffith, Chair, UnLtd
Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive, MS Society
Michael Ryan, Chief Executive, St Luke’s Community Centre
Mark Castle, Chief Executive, Victim Support
Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive, Wildlife Trust
Polly Neate, Chief Executive, Women’s Aid
Simon Antrobus, Chief Executive, Addaction
Stephen Hale, Chief Executive, Refugee Action
Paula Braynion, Chief Executive, Future Directions CIC
Sophie Livingstone, Chief Executive, City Year UK
Shirley Moore, Chief Executive, The Befriending Scheme
Sue Walton, Chief Executive, Pestalozzi
Karen Walker, Chief Executive, Multiple System Atrophy Trust
Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness
Oonagh Aitken, Chief Executive, Volunteering Matters
Jonathan Jenkins, Chief Executive, Social Investment Business
Alex Fox, Chief Executive, Shared Lives Plus
Adam O’Boyle, Chief Executive, Hub Ventures
Kate MacDonald, Chief Executive, YPSF
Allison Ogden-Newton, Chief Executive, Keep Britain Tidy
Andy Winter, Chief Executive, Brighton Housing Trust
Sara Mitchell, Chief Executive , Carers Network
Cathy James, Chief Executive, Public Concern at Work
Robert Longley-Cook, Chief Executive, HfT
Lynne Regent, Chief Executive, Anaphylaxis Campaign
David Warner, Chief Executive, London Funders
Andrew Waite, Chief Executive, Greenwich MENCAP
Beth Gardner, Chief Executive, Fair Train
Simone Enefer-Doy, Chief Executive, Lifelites
Tony Okotie, Chief Executive, Liverpool VCS
Menai Owen-Jones, Chief Executive, Pituitary Foundation
Simone Spray, Chief Executive, 42nd Street
Paul Martin, Chief Executive, LGBT Foundation
Gail Scott Spicer, Chief Executive, Carers Trust
Matt Dymond, Chief Executive, South Gloucester Youth Housing
Lisa Lenton, Chief Executive, ARC England
Dr Kay Miller, Chief Executive , Dr Hadwen Trust
Claire Periton, Chief Executive, Helen & Douglas House
Nick Hartshorne Evans, Chief Executive, Pumping Marvellous Foundation
Dr Mike Heyworth MBE, Director, Council for British Archaeology
Richard Barritt, Chief Executive, Solent Mind
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group
Maureen Falloon, Chief Executive, Age UK Bromley & Greenwich
Jenny Saunders OBE, Chief Executive, National Energy Action
Cheryl Ward, Chief Executive, Family Fund
Ellie Munro, Policy Officer, Motor Neurone Disease Association
Jan Tregelles, Chief Executive, MENCAP
Pamela Ball, Chief Executive, Knowsley CVS
Judi Rhys, Chief Executive, Arthritis Care
Caroline Mason, Chief Executive, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
Keith Starling, Interim Chief Executive, Big Society Capital
Bharat Mehta, Chief Executive, Trust for London
Gillian Caldwell, Chief Executive, Global Witness
Jo Wells, Director, The Blagrave Trust
Rick Henderson, Chief Executive, Homeless Link
Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive, Locality
Rosemary Macdonald, Chief Executive, Community Foundation for Wilshire & Swindon
Sue Milman, Chief Executive, Ataxia UK
Sharon Coyle, Chief Executive, Children’s Heart Surgery Fund
Kirsty Smith, Chief Executive, CMBUK
Amanda Hedley, Chief Executive, Norwich & Central Norfolk Mind
Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive, National Children’s Bureau
Clare Wightman, Chief Executive, Grapevine
Mike Wild, Chief Executive, MACC
Paul Morrish, Chief Executive, LandAid
Dr Mike Clarke, Chief Executive, RSPB
Mark Flannagan, Chief Executive, Beating Bowel Cancer
Shane Ryan, Chief Executive, Working With Men
Andrew Langford, Chief Executive, British Liver Trust
Wendy Thomas, Chief Executive, The Migraine Trust
Peter Poole, Chief of Staff, Combat Stress
Shaun Griffin, Exec Director, Terrence Higgins Trust
Jules Hillier, Interim Chief Executive, Brook
Amanda Batten, Chief Executive, Contact a Family
Alison Taylor, Chief Executive, The Children’s Liver Disease Foundation
Robert Johnstone, Chair, Access Matters
Fabian French, Chief Executive, UK Community Foundations
Gerry Lejeune OBE, Chief Executive, Berkshire Community Foundation
Glyn Davies, Acting Chief Executive, WWF
Laurie Lee, Chief Executive, Care International
Alison Page, Chief Executive, Salford Community & Voluntary Services
Warren Escadale, Chief Executive, Voluntary Sector North West (VSNW)
Debbie Ladds, Chief Executive, Local Trust
Tanya Barron, Chief Executive, Plan UK
John Jolly, Chief Executive, Blenheim CDP
Chris Whitwell , Director, Friends, Families and Travellers
Stephen Woollett, Chief Executive, South West Forum
David Barker, Chief Executive, Crohn’s and Colitis UK
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind
Heidi Wilson, Chair, The I Have IIH Foundation
Jane Hartley, Chief Executive, VONNE
Richard Pendlebury, Chair, Voscur
Dr James Munro, Chief Executive, Patient Opinion
Professor Alan Cottenden, Chairman, Bladder and Bowel Foundation
Georgette Mulheir, Chief Executive, Lumos
Anna Smee, Chief Executive, UK Youth
Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive, Samaritans
Sally Yeoman, Chief Executive, Halton and St Helens Voluntary and Community Action
Peter Holbrook, Chair, Compact Voice

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