Media Centre

Bond represents over 450 members working in international development, ranging from large agencies with a world-wide presence to smaller, specialist organisations.

For comments, interviews and information from Bond please contact Bond's Media Manager, Maryam Mohsin.

Call: 07555 336029 / 020 7837 8344 (ext 471)

Email: mmohsin@bond.org.uk 

Press releases

UK’s charity sector outraged by governments rejection of amendments to the Lobbying Act

In a statement today the Cabinet Office has said it will make no changes to the Lobbying Act. Charity bodies are concerned this amounts to a blanket rejection of recommendations made by a government-commissioned review, led by the Conservative peer Lord Hodgson.

This comes just weeks after over 100 charities sent a letter to Tracey Crouch strengthening calls on the minister responsible for the policy, Chris Skidmore, to overhaul the Act. Charities working to help the most vulnerable people in the UK and globally have repeatedly called for Lord Hodgson’s recommendations to be implemented. 

The charities and campaign groups who signed the letter represented a wide range of domestic and global issues including health, social care, global poverty, human rights, environment, and vulnerable groups. Organisations signatory to the letter included Greenpeace, Deafblind UK, Girlguiding and Action for Children.

Tamsyn Barton, chief executive of Bond, said:

It is absolutely deplorable that the UK Government is on the one hand attending the Communities of Democracy gathering in Washington to discuss the importance of civic space, whilst at the same time refusing to take any of the recommendations made for reform of a flawed piece of legislation which is diminishing civic space in the UK. How are charities supposed to speak up for the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society, both here and globally, when they are at risk of being penalised by the Lobbying Act? The Government is legislating the sector into silence at a time when our voices are needed the most. This is a terrible day for British democracy.

Vicky Browning, chief executive of ACEVO said: 

“Charity leaders will be dismayed by the Cabinet Office's decision to ignore wholesale Lord Hodgson’s recommendations to reduce campaigning restrictions. This decision is in direct contradiction with the views of not only Lord Hodgson but the cross-party Lords Select Committee on charities and over 100 charity leaders from across the country."

"Lord Hodgson insisted that his reforms would ensure the clarity and definition of campaigning boundaries. Without them, the Lobbying Act's restrictions remain deeply intimidating. If these restrictions remain in place they risk dampening the confidence and ability of charities to speak out about the biggest social, political and economic changes this country has seen for over half a century.

“The prime minister has time and again stressed the importance of civil society to our country. In making this decision, Cabinet Office minister Chris Skidmore has also said he wants to convey a clear message that the government is not anti-charity or against civil society being involved in the democratic process. However at the moment actions are speaking much louder than words." 

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said: 

“The failure of the Cabinet Office to address this issue is unacceptable. The government made a clear commitment to reviewing the impact of this law, and to now reject any changes out of hand can only weaken the voice of those that charities serve. These reasonable and considered recommendations were recently endorsed by politicians from all parties in the House of Lords, and the government must reconsider.”

Ben Russell, Director of Communications at CAF, said: 

“CAF has consistently warned that the Lobbying Act is preventing charities from fulfilling their vital role in a democracy and risks a chilling effect on charities. These proposed reforms would have mitigated some of its worst effects, and the Government’s refusal to implement them is very disappointing.

It’s essential that the Government now works with the Electoral Commission to make it very clear that charities are free to speak out on behalf of the causes and people they support.”

ENDS

Bond is the UK network for organisations working in international development. Bond unites and supports a diverse network of over 450 civil society organisations and allies to help eradicate global poverty, inequality and injustice.

Notes to Editors

1. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/507954/2904969_Cm_9205_Accessible_v0.4.pdf 

2. A copy of the letter and the full list of 124 signatories can be found here

In a letter to Tracey Crouch, the incoming Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society, the charities said:

“While we recognise that regulation is necessary to ensure that no one individual or organisation can exert undue influence at an election, the Lobbying Act has had a disproportionate impact on civil society campaigning. We are concerned that it caused many organisations, often representing our society's most marginalised and vulnerable people, not to engage in the run up to the recent general election, and resulted in important voices being lost from public debate.

Charities and non-partisan campaign groups have spent significant time attempting to understand the legislation and how to comply. However, many of the rules are vague and confusing, especially for smaller organisations. While some organisations have sought legal advice to help them interpret the legislation, this can be expensive and simply not an option for many. The rules on joint campaigning are also a concern for smaller charities, and have made organisations more hesitant to collaborate.”

3. The Lobbying Act 2014 provides a set of rules to govern people and organisations that publicly campaign on issues in the run up to elections but are not standing as a political party or candidate. The rules seek to ensure that no one individual or organisation can have an undue influence over an election.

The Lobbying Act was initially intended to tackle corporate lobbying and stop wealthy pressure groups and individuals from influencing election results, but in practice it has had a disproportionate impact on British charities. More information can be found in Bond’s Lobbying Act media briefing: Bond Lobbying Act media briefing.docx

4. Spokespeople are available on request. For further information or interviews please contact Maryam Mohsin on 07555 336029 or mmohsin@bond.org.uk

UK’s charities and campaigners strengthen call on government to overhaul Lobbying Act

Over 100 of the UK’s charities and campaigners have strengthened calls on the government to overhaul the Lobbying Act.

In a letter to Tracey Crouch, the incoming Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society, the charities said:

“While we recognise that regulation is necessary to ensure that no one individual or organisation can exert undue influence at an election, the Lobbying Act has had a disproportionate impact on civil society campaigning. We are concerned that it caused many organisations, often representing our society's most marginalised and vulnerable people, not to engage in the run up to the recent general election, and resulted in important voices being lost from public debate.

Charities and non-partisan campaign groups have spent significant time attempting to understand the legislation and how to comply. However, many of the rules are vague and confusing, especially for smaller organisations. While some organisations have sought legal advice to help them interpret the legislation, this can be expensive and simply not an option for many. The rules on joint campaigning are also a concern for smaller charities, and have made organisations more hesitant to collaborate.”

The charities and campaign groups that are signatory to the letter represent a wide range of domestic and global issues including health, social care, global poverty, human rights, environment, and vulnerable groups. Organisations who have signed the letter include Greenpeace, ARTICLE 19, Deafblind UK, Girlguiding, WWF, Action for Children, RSPB and Save the Children.

The Lobbying Act has been criticised for deterring charities from raising pressing domestic welfare and global issues during election periods for the past three years. Charities working to help the most vulnerable people in the UK and globally have repeatedly called for the recommendations of a government-commissioned review1, led by the Conservative peer Lord Hodgson, to be implemented.

Tamsyn Barton, chief executive of Bond, said: 

“We have seen a huge rise in the number of charities and campaigners speaking out against the Lobbying Act, particularly in the context of the recent snap election. However, their voice will continue to be silenced on a whole range of issues affecting the people they are trying to help, whether it be discrimination and inequality, or climate change, unless our repeated calls for the Lobbying Act to be overhauled get a response.” 

“Tracey Crouch’s appointment provides hope that something will be done to address this draconian piece of legislation. The incoming minister has worked with the sector before and values the vital contribution charities make to a healthy, democratic society.” 

Julie Bentley, chief executive of Girlguiding said: 

“At a time when girls and young women are faced with so many challenges and pressures, Girlguiding provides a safe platform for them to have their voices heard on issues that are important to them and empowers girls to make change happen. It is vital that girls’ voices are heard by decision-makers who can break down these barriers to girls reaching their full potential. We are concerned that the confusion and lack of clarity around the Lobbying Act as it stands could hinder this process. All of society loses out when the voices of those affected by issues are silenced from the debate around solutions, at the very time that decision-makers are listening most intently. We call on the government to revise this legislation to ensure all is being done to make girls’ lives safer, fairer and equal.”

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said:

“At the last general election, the UK was in an unprecedented period where uncertainties about post-Brexit Britain touched nearly every facet of our society, our environment, our governance and our role in the world. It was a crucial time to hear the multitude of voices in civil society as we collectively sought to shape what comes next. Greenpeace refused to register for the Lobbying Act because we felt the issues we campaign on – climate change, air pollution, ocean plastic, wildlife protection – are too important to be muzzled by an act that attempts to silence our voice at such a critical point. The right of civil society to campaign and make their voice heard should be the fabric of any vibrant democracy.”

Thomas Hughes, executive director of ARTICLE 19 said: 

“The UK Lobbying Act runs counter to numerous aspects of freedom of expression and the right to information.  The ability of CSOs to express and exchange ideas with those in power, and to propose solutions to challenging problems, enables civil society as a whole to affect change and demand accountability. This role must be enhanced and protected rather than restricted.”

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said:

“Charities’ campaigning is vitally important to policy development and political debate, and is a strength of our democracy. Through their campaigning, charities speak up for the people and causes they represent, they raise awareness on important issues and inform the debate with their expertise.

“Many charities still have significant confusion about what they are able to do under the Lobbying Act, and the range of organisations signing this letter demonstrates the amount of concern about how this is silencing charities. The reforms to the Lobbying Act that we are asking for would provide much needed clarity, and ensure charities can campaign with confidence and make their voices heard.”

ENDS

Bond is the UK network for organisations working in international development. Bond unites and supports a diverse network of over 450 civil society organisations and allies to help eradicate global poverty, inequality and injustice.

Notes to Editors

1. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/507954/2904969_Cm_9205_Accessible_v0.4.pdf 

2. A copy of the letter and the full list of 124 signatories can be found here

3. The Lobbying Act 2014 provides a set of rules to govern people and organisations that publicly campaign on issues in the run up to elections but are not standing as a political party or candidate. The rules seek to ensure that no one individual or organisation can have an undue influence over an election.

The Lobbying Act was initially intended to tackle corporate lobbying and stop wealthy pressure groups and individuals from influencing election results, but in practice, it has had a disproportionate impact on British charities. More information can be found in Bond’s Lobbying Act media briefing: Bond Lobbying Act media briefing.docx

4. Spokespeople are available on request. For further information or interviews please contact Maryam Mohsin on 07555 336029 / mmohsin@bond.org.uk

11 June 2017 UK’s leading aid organisations welcome the reappointment of Priti Patel, but call on SOS not to act unilaterally on UK aid reform

Today, the UK’s leading aid organisations welcome the reappointment of Priti Patel, but call on Secretary of State not to act unilaterally on UK aid reform. 
Over five million people support these organisations and stand with them to fight global poverty. 

A joint statement from the group* said: 

"We welcome the reappointment of Priti Patel as Secretary of State for International Development to deliver the Government’s manifesto commitment to meet its promises to the world's poorest people. 

"At a time when the world is facing the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War and four countries stand on the brink of famine, British aid and leadership in tackling poverty and hunger are needed more than ever. 
 
“If the Government is serious about delivering on their manifesto promise to eradicate poverty and save children’s lives, it is vital that they put the needs of the poorest first – negotiating the reform of UK aid on their behalf, and resisting any temptation to act unilaterally.” 

ENDS 
Notes to Editors 
*The leading UK aid organisations who have signed this statement are: Save the Children, UNICEF UK, Oxfam GB, ONE, Christian Aid, Water Aid, Tearfund, CAFOD, Concern Worldwide, Plan International UK, Restless Development, IRC, RESULTS, VSO, Global Citizen, Care International, Action Aid, Malaria Consortium

06 June 2017 UK’s snap election has shown the Lobbying Act is unfit for purpose

Bond, an umbrella group representing 450 development charities, is concerned that the Lobbying Act has suffocated civil society space this general election by preventing campaigning on issues affecting the poorest and most marginalised people around the world, including the UK.
 
Several of Bond’s members have signed a letter to the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, SNP and Plaid leaders calling on all parties to commit to overhauling the Lobbying Act as a matter of urgency after the general election. 
 
Campaigning during election time is a critical and legitimate part of what our members do. This is how charities ensure those who are vulnerable and marginalised have a voice. But the level of red tape involved in complying with the Act is excessive and the cost of legal advice is unaffordable for smaller organisations – especially at such short notice.” says Bond’s CEO, Tamsyn Barton.
 
She adds: “Shockingly, many organisations have felt unable to speak out during this snap election on issues which affected the people they aim to represent – and our democracy is all the poorer for it.” 
 
The Lobbying Act, dubbed the ‘charity-gagging law’ when first introduced in 2014, was widely criticised for having a ‘chilling effect’ on civil society at the last general election because of its lack of clarity and overwhelming bureaucracy. A government-commissioned review called for it to be reformed, but no action has been taken.
 
John Barrett, Small Charities Coalition’s CEO said, "The snap election caught everyone off-guard and we have seen smaller organisations struggle to get their voices heard. Small charities across the country have a lot they want to say in this election, and are important sources of knowledge to be harnessed.”
 
Whilst some have succeeded in making their voices heard, many aren't engaged with campaigning despite it being crucial to their charitable objectives,” Barrett added. “This fear of speaking out is not just about getting it wrong, but also about the faff of audit trails and red tape. The lack of clarity and grey areas means that small charities must make the choice between spending time getting to grips with the rules, or meeting the immediate needs of the beneficiaries they work to support. We need a simple, proportionate and supportive approach to regulation to ensure that all charities will be heard in the future."
 
Several charities have been forced to alter or reduce campaign activities during election to ensure their activities are not misinterpreted as “political” under the Act.
 
Tom Viita, Christian Aid’s Head of Advocacy said, “As a fixture in our calendar every May for 60 years, Christian Aid Week has seen many elections and governments come and go. The Lobbying Act is so badly drafted it created a huge amount of unnecessary red tape for us to prove that our supporter activities during Christian Aid Week should not be defined as election activity. During the week tens of thousands of people knock on doors and distribute leaflets, not for political parties but for Christian Aid to help the world’s poorest people through fundraising and campaigning. Any sensible person can tell the difference, but the Lobbying Act can’t. Future elections must not be marred by this burdensome regulation that obstructs our vibrant democracy.” 
 
ENDS 
For interviews with Tamsyn Barton, Bond’s CEO, Tom Viita, Christian Aid’s Head of Advocacy, or for more information please contact Maryam Mohsin: mmohsin@bond.org.uk / +44 (0)7555 336029

About Bond: Bond is the UK membership body for organisations working in international development or supporting those that do through funding, research, training and other services. Established in 1993, we now have over 450 members ranging from large agencies with a world-wide presence to smaller, specialist organisations. 

30 May 2017 Leading UK aid organisations and academics express concern that Tories may weaken aid rules

Leaders of prominent UK aid organisations and academics have published a letter in today’s Financial Times expressing concern in response to the Conservative Party’s manifesto pledge to review the OECD rules on aid spending. Signatories included Professor Sir Richard Jolly, Research Associate at Institute of Development Studies, Professor David Hulme, President of the Development Studies Association and Lord Judd, former Director of Oxfam, as well as Cafod, Christian Aid, The ONE Campaign , Oxfam, Save the Children and Unicef UK.

The letter read: “We warmly welcome the main political parties’ promise to uphold our commitment to international aid. We know from our work the extraordinary, life-saving impact of UK Aid. 

We also welcome the promises made to ensure the UK’s aid budget has maximum impact. Nobody is keener than us to see UK aid spent effectively – when lives are at stake, we must be rigorous about every penny. 

The Conservative Party has proposed a review of the OECD-governed rules on aid spending. These rules are neither perfect nor frozen in time, but they do provide a robust framework for ensuring that development assistance puts people living in poverty first.

We are very concerned about the suggestion that this country should apply new aid rules unilaterally if agreement is not reached on any proposed changes. This step could weaken the vital independent scrutiny and standard setting role played by the OECD, and heighten the risk of misuse of aid. 

As a nation we are rightly proud of our global leadership in development, a record we have built through a determination to seek international cooperation and a resolute focus on the world’s poorest people. 

A truly Global Britain is one that builds consensus with friends and allies about how to make the world a more peaceful and prosperous place.” 

The letter was signed by the following aid agencies and academics: 

Amy Agnew, Europe Director, Global Citizen 
Christine Allen, Director of Policy & Public Affairs, Christian Aid
Chris Bain, Director, CAFOD
Tanya Barron, CEO, Plan International UK
Tamsyn Barton, CEO, Bond
Rose Caldwell, Executive Director, Concern Worldwide UK
Nigel Harris, Chief Executive, Tearfund
Professor David Hulme, President of the Development Studies Association  
Professor Sir Richard Jolly, Research Associate, Institute of Development Studies
Lord Judd, former Director of Oxfam 
Penny Lawrence, Acting Chief Executive, Oxfam GB
Professor Melissa Leach, Director, Institute of Development Studies
Adrian Lovett, Europe Executive Director, The ONE Campaign
Girish Menon, Chief Executive, ActionAid 
Diana Mitlin, Managing Director, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester
Paul Murphy, CEO, Saferworld
Mike Penrose, Executive Director, Unicef UK
Ann Pettifor, Director, Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PRIME)
Tim Pilkington, CEO, World Vision UK
Alex Thier, Executive Director, ODI  
Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive, WaterAid
Jane Waterman, Executive Director, IRC UK
Kevin Watkins, CEO, Save the Children 

ENDS
Notes to Editors 
The letter was published in the Financial Times on the 30 May 2017

Leading UK aid organisations, supported by millions, call for political parties to honour 0.7% on aid in their manifestos

Today, the UK’s leading aid organisations are calling on all major political parties to honour the nation’s legal promise to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid, and extend the UK’s leadership in promoting stability, fairness and prosperity around the world.

Over five million people support these organisations, and stand with them to fight global poverty.

A joint statement from the group* said: 
"Britain keeps its promises. We stand up for the underdog and stand firm when things get tough. At times when it would have been easier to turn in on ourselves, step away from the wider world and break our commitments to those in need, we have shown time and time again that Britain is bigger than that. Bigger than the easy options of self-interest or taking what we can get. Big enough to hold fast, and defend the amazing progress that’s been made. 

Our commitment to spend 0.7% of our national income on aid has been testament to that, and featured in all the major political party manifestos running up to the last general election. That’s because looking out for those less fortunate than ourselves is part of who we are. We are a brave and big-hearted nation, and holding our ground when the going gets tough is Britain at its biggest. 

Recent years have seen the number of people living in extreme poverty in the world halved and our aid has contributed significantly to this progress – so we know that it works – helping to build schools and hospitals, giving under-fives life-saving vaccinations and making sure mums and dads can provide their families with safe drinking water. 

It is British aid and the deep generosity of the British public that is always on the forefront of responding to crises. It was British aid and our doctors and nurses leading the fight against Ebola. And right now, when aid parcels, tents and water tanks bearing the Union Jack are saving lives in East Africa, Syria and across the Middle East, we're proud that when the odds stacked against us seem insurmountable, Britain is big enough to take them on. Big enough to look out for those less fortunate than ourselves or meet halfway those working hard to stand on their own two feet. 

The British public are also proud that our great nation hasn't turned its back on the world's poorest people, so at a time when the world most needs our leadership and strength, we call on the leaders of all parties to hold firm on the promise we have made, and stand up for their belief in a bigger Britain."
ENDS
Notes to Editors 
*The leading UK aid organisations who have signed this statement are World Vision UK, Save the Children, UNICEF UK, Age International, Oxfam GB, VSO, Christian Aid, Malaria Consortium, ActionAid, Tearfund, CAFOD, Malaria No More UK, Bond, Plan International UK, ONE, Restless Development, Islamic Relief, Comic Relief 

Media coverage

07/2017 DEVEX: UK organizations likely to face funding shortfall after Brexit

06/2017 Civil Society News: Charities call for ‘urgent’ revisions to the Lobbying Act

06/2017 The Guardian: Jeremy Corbyn vows to repeal charity 'gag' law if he wins election

06/2017 Third Sector: 'Fifty-plus charities urge parties to commit to repealing the lobbying act

05/2017 Financial Times: UK aid must be preserved and rigorously spent