Govt urged to legislate to protect charities’ free speech

Politicians have been urged to protect charities’ independence and rights to free speech in law, and restore ministerial responsibility for the sector to a cabinet level post.

The Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations publishes its manifesto today, calling for a five point ‘pledge card’ of policies to ensure charities cannot be silenced by legislation such as the Lobbying Act.

The pledges would see free speech of the third sector protected explicitly in law, with the exact approach dependent on the governing party’s policy. Charities’ access to judicial review would be protected, and the right to legal aid extended to charities where they represent an at risk or underrepresented group.

Government would commit to a single third sector Act under the pledges, unifying all of the regulation around charity campaigning. This includes appropriate provisions in the Charities Act, the Lobbying Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act.

Finally, under the pledges government would work with and support an ongoing assembly of third sector organisations whose mission is to maintain the independence of the sector’s voice. Government would also set up an ‘All Party Parliamentary Group for Third Sector Independence and Campaigning’.

Read the rest of this article at Charity Times