The ability of charities in England and Wales to engage effectively in political activity has been significantly impacted by both legal and political developments in recent years. Bright lines continue to govern the fundamental restriction on charities not being allowed to have a political purpose or engage in party political campaigning. However, in terms of the grey areas around what are political purposes from the point of view of charity law, the public perceptions around charities’ activities in these areas, and the formal regulation of campaigning around elections, it will be seen that there have been significant shifts in recent times. In this presentation, Debra will consider how, despite the fact that Charity Law may be loosening up somewhat in terms of what amounts to a political purpose, pressure from politicians, together with what might be seen as a clamping down by the Charity Commission (the charity regulator in England and Wales), and finally the impact of new legislation governing electoral campaigning, means that charities are feeling the chilling effect and are finding it more and more difficult to speak out in any ‘political’ sense.
Debra Morris is Professor of Charity Law & Policy at the University of Liverpool where she is also the Director of the Charity Law & Policy Unit. As Director of the Unit, she leads research on various projects concerned with aspects of charity law. She is Editor of Charity Law & Practice Review, the only UK journal specialising in charity law. She has written widely in the area of charity law and has presented at conferences and seminars at home and abroad.
- Presentation [PDF document]