Rob Wilson, the minister for civil society, has given clear backing to charities’ right to campaign in a letter sent last week.
Wilson wrote to Andrew Purkis, a former board member of the Charity Commission and former chair of ActionAid who has held numerous roles in the sector. Purkis had delivered a lecture on the history of charitable campaigning at Cass Business School, defending the sector’s right to advocate to government.
“It is not the government’s intention to prevent charities from supporting, engaging or influence public policy,” Wilson wrote. “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.
“I have no doubt that charities will continue to play an important role in campaigning to support their charitable purposes, and that in years to come there will be many more examples of charities influencing and contributing to changes in public policy.”
However Wilson also reiterated warnings that charities should not stray into party politics.
“Trustees must consider it as an effective use of charitable resources and they must not be drawn into party politics, support political parties or risk damage to their reputation and independence,” he wrote.
Purkis said he welcomed the response.
“This is the warmest acknowledgement of the achievements and positive value of charity campaigning that we have had from the government or Charity Commission for three years or more,” he said. “It is really positive, in what has been a wintry climate.
“Of course, we need to see if ministers generally will now sing from this more positive hymnsheet. It would be good to hear it from the Charity Commission itself, too. And of course we hope the minister will convince more of his own MPs.”