I have just received the most positive statement for the last three years from a Government Minister on the subject of campaigning by charities.
Rob Wilson, MP, Minister for Civil Society was responding to my Lecture called “In our good old English fashion” delivered at the Cass Business School on 2 September. He writes:
“As a nation we can be justifiably proud of our history of campaigning for charitable causes both in this country and abroad. Your lecture set this out well and highlighted some of the important changes to our way of life that have been achieved through campaigning by charities.
“It is not the Government’s intention to prevent charities from supporting, engaging or influencing Government policy. Campaigning is a legitimate and valuable activity of civil society and we support the charity sector’s right to campaign. I have always been clear that it is important that charities can campaign to support their charitable purpose, as long as they do so within the rules, I welcome it.”
The Minister goes on to summarise the rules, no doubt with help from the Charity Commission. When he says “The Charity Commission’s guidance is clear about what is and is not allowed” he seems to imply that he for one does not think that CC9 needs to be fundamentally reviewed.
The letter finishes on a particularly warm note: “I have no doubt that charities will continue to play an important role in campaigning to support their charitable puroses, and that in years to come there will be many more examples of charities influencing and contributing to changes in public policy”.
Credit where credit is due: this is the Minister for Civil Society giving a positive lead on a subject that has been controversial. Good for him. Now we need to watch three points:
- will other, more senior Ministers now sing from the same positive hymn sheet?
- will he be able to win more Conservative MPs to his view: the CAF Report Under the Microscope suggests 67% of them do not think it is important for charities to highlight the effects of Government policies?
- Will we hear a similarly positive line from the Charity Commission? The last time William Shawcross said anything like this was at his very first speech (to ACEVO) three years’ ago. The times are out of joint when a key Tory Minister is so much warmer about the valuable campaigning role of charities than the Charity Commission itself.