Today, commenting on the second report of the Hodgson review, Charity Leaders Network ACEVO pledged their backing for the report and called for the Government to implement the recommendations contained in full without delay.
Chief Executive Sir Stephen Bubb said that the 2014 Lobbying Act was a huge blow to the ability of charities to speak out on behalf of their beneficiaries but argued that the report’s recommendations would go some way to mitigating its worst excesses.
The Hodgson Review contains two recommendations which are crucial to protecting the voice of the third sector, and must be implemented without delay.
The first is to undo the controversial clause whereby entirely innocent campaigning activity – if misinterpreted by others – is prohibited. Changing this clause to look at the intent of the charity is a common sense move, and would remedy one of the worst excesses of the Lobbying Act. This will allow charities to comment on harmful policies in the run-up to elections, without fear of being punished for appearing to campaign in a partisan way.
The second is to remedy the situation where charities campaigning is restricted for a year prior to an election. Activity in June 2014 was considered campaigning for the 2015 election. This restricted the ability of charities to speak out day-to-day on behalf of their beneficiaries.
The immediate implementation of these recommendations would undo much of the damage done by the Lobbying Act, and allow charities to give voice to the most vulnerable in our society.
Commenting, Sir Stephen Bubb, CEO of ACEVO, said;
‘The Lobbying Act was a legislative and democratic car crash. By gagging charities, the Government ensured that the voices of our most vulnerable were stilled during the election. It is the duty of the third sector to speak truth to power, and the Government should not have taken steps to restrict their ability to do so.
‘ACEVO has always advocated the total repeal of the Lobbying Act. It is not just that the freedom of speech of any organisation should be restricted without far greater justification than the Lobbying Act had. That said, the recommendations contained in this report would represent a good first step. By ensuring that only that activity which intends to influence elections is regulated, we can ensure that charities are not unduly silenced.
‘As such, we call on the Government to implement the recommendations of the Hodgson Review in full, and without delay – and take some steps towards righting the wrongs of their predecessors.
‘I thank Lord Hodgson for the good job he has done, and the thorough work which has gone into this review.’