The DWP have shot down accusations that they use so-called “gagging orders” to prevent charities from speaking ill of them or their work, saying that the clauses signed are instead designed to “protect the government.”
Written questions raised to both the House of Lords and House of Commons were answered yesterday. The questions, which were asked by Lord Myners and MP Tom Brake, asked the Department for Work and Pensions “whether gagging clauses have been used in contracts drawn up by [the] Department and any charities, voluntary sector organisations, social enterprises, or companies with the intention of stopping any criticism of Ministers of [the] Department.”
Both answers by Baroness Buscombe and Justin Tomlinson, the parliamentary under-secretaries for the DWP in their respective Houses, confirmed that while there are clauses in their contracts with suppliers, they exist to “ensure that neither it, nor any of its Affiliates, bring the Authority into disrepute by engaging in any act or omission which is reasonably likely to diminish the trust that the public places in the Authority”.
They each add that the clauses do not exist to “prevent the contracting bodies from making statements critical of government policy, or programmes such as Universal Credit or politicians, and certainly do not prevent whistle-blowing,” and are simply there to “protect government.”
Several media outlets, including the Times [paywall], have claimed that the DWP have “gagged” charities and organisations working with the Department to prevent them criticising the DWP or Esther McVey.
The paper reported that at least 22 different organisations have been forced to sign gagging clauses while working with the DWP, which states that they must “not do anything which may attract adverse publicity” to McVey or harm public confidence in her.
The Times states that contracts signed by organisations including the Shaw Trust, G4S and Remploy contain clauses which say the organisations must support DWP policy where it affects their work, although the newspaper says the charities consider this “standard practice.”Get your copy of UNITE Magazine
Image: Flickr/Adolfo Lujan