UK charities 'gagged' from speaking out against Theresa May

'We are ready to speak out at one minute past midnight on 9 June,' charity head says

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Tuesday 30 May 2017 10:05 BST
Labour said it would scrap the lobbying act as it effectively "gagged charities"
Labour said it would scrap the lobbying act as it effectively "gagged charities" (PA)

Charities are reportedly being “gagged” by the Government from speaking out about “damaging” social care plans.

A chief executive of a major charity told the Guardian they felt “muzzled” by legislation passed in 2014, which prevents charities from lobbying the Government in the run-up to an election.

The charity leader warned Theresa May’s decision to means test the winter fuel allowance could “literally cost lives”, as some of the poorest pensioners in the country lose support.

They also condemned the “dementia tax”, claiming it would stop people from seeking necessary support.

They said they were preparing to speak out but would not do so before the general election on 8 June for fear they would be gagged further.

“We are ready to speak out at one minute past midnight on 9 June,” they said.

Thinktank Charity Futures head Sir Stephen Bubb said the charity sector had been notably silent on the Tory manifesto.

“The social care proposals strike at the heart of what charities do but they should be up in arms about them but it hasn’t happened. It is two problems: there is the problem of the so-called ‘gagging act’, but also the general climate of hostility towards charities means there is a lot of self censorship,” he told the Guardian.

“Charities that once would have spoken out are keeping quiet and doing a disservice to their beneficiaries. They need to get a bit of a grip.”

Another senior figure in the charity said they were too scared to speak out.

“We are all scared of the lobbying act and thus most of us are not saying much during the election. There was the same problem in the EU referendum – if you criticise the government then you are being political,” they said.

Greenpeace was the first charity to be fined under the legislation after it failed to register as a “third-party campaigning organisation” in the run-up to 2015’s election.

Civil society shadow minister Steve Reed said Labour would scrap the lobbying act as it “effectively gagged” charities.

“Here is this disastrous U-turn on social care and we are not hearing much from the charities that are working on the ground with older people and those with dementia because the Tories have shut them up. They’ve been banned from pointing out the negative consequences of government policy,” he said.

A Tory source said: “We are going to consult very widely on these changes in policy to avoid unintended consequences – we want to take into account views of people who use services, charities, stakeholder and so on and that will happen after the election period.”

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