Department of Business cuts ties with Stonewall

Department of Business follows BBC and Channel 4 in cutting ties with Stonewall over lobbying concerns

  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy severed its ties
  • Officials said it echoed similar moves by the BBC and Channel 4 to cut charity
  • However, they refused to say exactly why it decided to end its association 
  • Critics accused Stonewall of compelling people to share same transgender view
  • LGBT charity said diversity champions programme aims to end discrimination

Another Whitehall department is to end its association with LGBT charity Stonewall amid concern about its lobbying.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) severed ties after a review by business minister Lord Callanan – despite unease in Downing Street.

Officials said the decision echoed similar moves by bodies such as the BBC and Channel 4 but refused to say exactly why it decided to end its association.

At the centre of the debate on Stonewall is its ‘diversity champions programme’, which many major organisations have joined.

The charity says the programme is an important way for participants to end discrimination against ‘lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer staff’.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) severed ties with the LGBT charity Stonewall after a review by business minister Lord Callanan (pictured)

Campaigners urging organisations to withdraw from Stonewall’s diversity scheme in October last year 

Businesses can also take part in Stonewall’s ‘workplace equality index’, which ranks participants on how well they meet a set of its ‘inclusivity’ criteria.

But critics have accused Stonewall of using the schemes to compel participants to share its views on transgender issues, such as allowing men to self-identify as transgender women. 

And some sceptics within the Government argue that by taking part departments are effectively paying to be lobbied.

Classic Victorian novels rarely shied away from the realities of life, but it seems the same cannot be said for today’s students.

Undergraduates reading Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations now receive a ‘trigger warning’ flagging up ‘distressing’ passages.

The decision by Salford University has drawn criticism from politicians and actors including Simon Callow, the star of several Dickens adaptations for television.

He joked: ‘I don’t think the university authorities have gone far enough.

‘A more helpful alert would be: “Warning – this book may make you think. In extreme cases, it may even make you feel”.’

The trigger warning to students, revealed by The Mail on Sunday, notes ‘scenes and discussions of violence and sexual violence’. A Salford University spokesman said: ‘We give students the opportunity to have a discussion with their lecturer in advance.’

In recent months, the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health have announced that they will no longer take part in the schemes. 

The Treasury, the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions are also reportedly weighing up their involvement.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is believed to have pushed for all departments to sever ties with Stonewall. But some figures in Downing Street, including Boris Johnson’s adviser Henry Newman, are said to have raised concerns that this sends a terrible message to the LBGT community.

Stonewall insists that participation in its schemes does not affect an organisation’s impartiality and that it does not require participants to act on its advice.

In the past five years, 14 government departments have spent £301,623 on Stonewall membership and training. Lord Callanan’s review into the business department’s involvement with the charity focused on value for money.

Stonewall disputes that large numbers are leaving its diversity programme, saying overall figures are growing. Despite a number of high-profile drop outs, it said more than 200 employers signed up between November 1, 2020 and November 1 last year.

A BEIS spokesman said not renewing its membership of Stonewall’s diversity champions programme brought it into line with other departments and organisations such as Ofsted and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

He added: ‘Our decision in no way affects our steadfast commitment to ensuring the department remains a brilliant place for LGBT+ colleagues to work, while continuing to champion the rights of LGBT+ individuals…’

A Stonewall spokesman said: ‘Contrary to some reporting, our leading diversity champions programme continues to grow, and we’re proud to work with more than 900 organisations to help create working environments in which all lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people can thrive.’ 

Concerns over affiliations with Stonewall have grown in recent months leading to a number of organisations, both public and private, to withdraw from the charity’s diversity scheme

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