This could seriously harm free speech.
The Conservative Government’s excuse for it is the issue of “sock puppets”, where taxpayers’ money is given to pressure groups which then campaign for policy changes or extra money – but isn’t it a duty of a grant-paying organisation like central government to weed out such organisations before the money is dispensed, rather than cooking up a blanket refusal that includes charities and campaigners who genuinely know their subject?
At the very least, this plan is lazy.
It seems the Tory Government simply doesn’t want to let charities plead the cause of the disadvantaged. Who else will?
One is left with the impression that the Conservatives simply want to shut down criticism of their policies – just as they have been trying to shut down their political opponents ever since last year’s general election with the attack on ‘Short’ money for political parties and the intended cut in union funding to the Labour Party in the Trade Union Bill.
Organisations given UK government grants will be banned from using the money to try to persuade ministers to change the law or increase spending.
A new clause will be added into all new and renewed grant agreements to ensure funds are spent on good causes, rather than on political campaigns.
Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock said “the farce of government lobbying government” had to stop.
Voluntary groups said the rules could threaten their freedom to speak out.
Critics also said the restrictions, which come into effect in May and will only apply to grants from central UK government departments, could be hard to enforce.
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