Charities defend their independence against Westminster ‘interference’

Charities defend their independence against Westminster ‘interference’
Third Force News, by Graham Martin
16.06.14

A coalition of charities has issued a response to the Westminster government’s alleged attempts to clamp down on campaigning.

The move came after Conservative MP Conor Burns complained to the Charity Commission that a recent Oxfam anti-poverty drive was “too political”.

This promoted claims from John Downie of SCVO that the government is using the English and Welsh regulator as a ‘front’ in a bid to muzzle charities and hide some uncomfortable truths.

Attempts to silence legitimate debate are an attack on democracy
A group of 69 charities from across the UK issued a letter, published in the Times on Monday, which stresses the organisations’ right to campaign, free from censure.

The letter states: “We are concerned that Conor Burns MP’s complaint to the Charity Commission over an Oxfam tweet highlighting some of the causes of poverty in Britain is the latest attempt to stifle charities and campaign groups taking part in public debate.

“We are already concerned about the pernicious new Lobbying Act which is likely to significantly restrict our ability to speak out on behalf of the people and issues that we represent for seven months ahead of the general election.

“British people are rightly proud of our democracy and tradition of political freedom and tolerance. In the past few decades, campaigning organisations have succeeded in persuading reluctant governments to cancel poor countries’ debts, remove lead from petrol, and allow Gurkha veterans the right of residence in the UK.

“Attempts to silence legitimate debate are an attack on democracy.”