In case anyone thinks that talk of betraying the Compact between Government and civil society, signed personally by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010, is exaggerated, here are the actual key passages of text.
- Message from the Prime Minister: “The Compact plays a crucial part in improving the partnership between the Government and civil society organisations, for the benefit of citizens and communities. Looking forward, the role of this sector has never been more important. Building the Big Society and getting citizens more engaged, involved and responsible for the communities around them will only be possible in partnership with the sector; improving and delivering better, more responsive public services can only be done with the help of the sector; and empowering communities can only work where the skills, enthusiasm and commitment of the sector is harnessed.”
- Undertaking from Government to civil society: Clause 1.1 of the Compact: “Respect and uphold the independence of CSOs to deliver their mission, including their right to campaign, regardless of any relationship, financial or otherwise, which may exist.”
Now here is the announcement by Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office, on 6 February 2016 : this is what is going to be written into all central government grant agreements with voluntary sector bodies. Any exemptions from the rule are expected to be “few and far between”.
“The following costs are not Eligible Expenditure: Payments that support activity intended to influence or attempt to influence Parliament, government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action”. (my italics)
That language would catch all attempts to explain user views and needs to Ministers, civil servants, Parliamentarians and your local MP, let alone wider public discussion. This affects the rights not only of voluntary organisations but also Parliament itself and MPs. It will impoverish the knowledge base for all policy making.