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Leading charities are calling on the next government to lift the legal gag that prevents them from campaigning for the poor and marginalised in society.

Heads of non-governmental organisations, including Friends of the Earth, Shelter, Liberty, End Violence Against Women, the Quakers and the Howard League, have written to all of the main political parties calling for greater freedom to speak out.

The charities say they are being prevented from representing the most vulnerable in society through the restrictive requirements of the Lobbying Act. They are pushing for it to be significantly revised and for the next government to uphold the right to protest and speak out.

The act has been labelled a gagging law for charities; it controls what they can say and do publicly in the 12-month run-up to elections. It aims to ensure that individuals or organisations cannot have an undue influence over the vote.

The act was aimed at controlling the influence of business lobbying and wealthy individuals, but NGOs say it has had a chilling effect on charities in the run-up to elections.

Increasingly, they say, restrictions have been placed on the ability of civil society groups to speak out against policies that could harm vulnerable people in the UK and around the world.

The charities say despite the government’s recent warm words about promoting democracy and civil society voices around the world, in the UK both are in decline. The UK has joined a list of 12 European countries in which civic space is rated as “narrowed”. Read more

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