The head of Arts Council England has rebuked staff who branded a gay rights charity “anti-trans” and warned them the body must uphold free speech.
Dr Darren Henley told a Commons committee he had “reminded” employees of their duty to “absolutely protect everybody’s right to freedom of expression”.
He was grilled on revelations in The Daily Telegraph that workers at the quango had called the LGB Alliance “a cultural parasite and glorified hate group”.
Simon Mellor, its deputy chief executive, told a staff meeting the charity was “a divisive organisation” and awarding it public cash was “a mistake”.
His remarks were made just days before a £9,000 grant it was awarded to make a film for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee was withdrawn.
Damian Green, a Tory MP and former Cabinet minister, asked whether an internal investigation had been carried out into the remarks.
Dr Henley replied: “We have looked at that and reminded those people involved of the processes that we need to go through.
“We absolutely protect everybody’s right to freedom of expression and all protected characteristics are recognised and observed fully right the way through the Arts Council, and I believe very strongly in that.”
He said the comments that had been made were “a personal view” and did not represent “the view of the Arts Council”.
“The view of the Arts Council is the LGB Alliance is a body that is constituted and can make applications to us and that continues to be the case,” he added.
Dr Henley also said he stood by comments made earlier in the year that his quango was not responsible for withdrawing the Jubilee grant.
The cash was given by the Arts Council to a second body, London Community Foundation, which then made the funding decision.
Bev Jackson, co-founder LGB Alliance, said: “We are deeply concerned at how these vitriolic comments must have affected LGB staff in the Arts Council.
“This leak has lifted the veil on the culture inside many of our leading institutions, where there is a growing climate of fear in which lesbians and gays feel they cannot speak out.
“We urge the Arts Council to publish its advice to staff and to emphasise their right to defend the importance of biological sex and sex-based rights.”
Mr Green said he was pleased to have received assurances from the quango that it would not “discriminate against” the charity in future.