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MP lobbied on Lobbying bill

On Friday 4th October nearly 30 local residents attended a meeting with Tom Brake MP to discuss concerns about the ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning & Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14’

Sutton for Peace and Justice members took part in a pre-meeting arranged by 38 Degrees and the meeting with Tom Brake, who is one of the Ministers responsible for navigating the Bill through Parliament.

The ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning & Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14’:

  • Introduces a statutory register of consultant lobbyists and a Registrar to enforce the registration requirements;
  • regulates election campaign spending by those not standing for election or registered as political parties more closely; and
  • strengthens the legal requirements placed on trade unions in relation to their obligation to keep their list of members up to date.

Concerns expressed at the meeting included:

  • A rushed and flawed consultation process.
  • No green paper; no white paper.
  • No early consultation with Electoral Commission or civil society organisations.
  • The Bill was published before the summer recess, tabled for its second reading on 3rd Sept. and given only 1 day of committee in the House.

The lower threshold of £5000 would affect a large swathe of organisations working locally – they would be looking over their shoulders, wondering whether they were at risk of breaching the rules, in effect crippling civil society.

Part 2 (charities and NGOs) should be withdrawn to allow for a longer period of consultation & part 1 should deliver the transparency we need regards corporate lobbying.

What we wanted was transparency: who does the lobbying on behalf of whom and on whom (any public official); how much money is spent, and targeting what legislation with what purpose.

But what we have got is the reverse: curbs on civil society organisations while letting corporate lobbying, an industry worth £20 billion, off scot-free. The proposed register only covers less than 20% of lobbying activities.

Tom Brake had difficulty in explaining how the line would be drawn between policy-based campaigning and political campaigning promoting a candidate or party.

He did say that campaigns like Make Poverty History, involving over 100 charities in an election year, 2005, would not be affected by the Bill.

The Political & Constitutional Reform Committee said:

For Government to push through legislation in this way is contemptuous of Parliament’ also applies to civil society – it is contemptuous of civil society.

Helen Mountfield QC, for the NCVO, advised:

there is a good argument that the provisions of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) as amended by the Part II of the Bill in its present form would go so wide and be so uncertain as to the extent of their restrictions on political/policy expression, over so long and so uncertain a period, as to be more than is ‘necessary in a democratic society’ and so to violate the provisions of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said of the tabled amendments to the Bill:

The poor drafting, muddled justification and expert condemnation that brought together perhaps the biggest ever coalition in public life made this retreat inevitable. But the problems with this Bill have not gone away. It still limits campaigns against extremist parties, breaches the privacy of trade union members and fails to open up lobbying. If ministers think that opposition will now melt away, they have another think coming.

See also the concerns of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations and the National Council of Voluntary Organisations

(Reporting by David Murray)


One Response

  1. PAUL BURSTOW also plans a meeting on 25 Oct if enough people confirm they’ll attend: http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2013/10/01/gagging-law-come-to-a-meeting-with-paul-burstow/#respond

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