Govt urged to think again on Lobby Bill, following House of Lords defeat
The Government has been defeated in the House of Lords this evening over its controversial lobbying bill, despite offering concessions following criticism from charities.
Commenting on the defeat, Liz Hutchins, Friends of the Earth senior campaigner said:
"The Government's heavy defeat on the issue of staff costs reflects the strength of concern about the Lobbying Bill in the House of Lords.
"Over 130 charities and campaigning organisations and 160,000 people backed a petition for the amendment.
"But this is still a dangerous Bill which will stop charities from raising genuine concerns ahead of general elections.
"Ministers must think again before this bill becomes law."
Notes to editors:
1. The Government was tonight defeated in an important vote on the Lobbying Bill. Peers from all parties backed an amendment (45) to limit staff costs counting towards controlled expenditure by 237 votes for to 194 votes against.
The amendment was tabled by Lord Harries of Pentregarth and was supported by a petition of over 130 charities and campaigning groups and 160,000 people.
2. Even after today’s changes, the Lobbying Bill would still limit charities and campaigning organisations from speaking out ahead of elections on some of the most important issues facing the country and the planet.
3. Key problems remain:
i) Overall spending limits have been slashed by 60% (Am 46A)
ii) New tight constituency spending limits have been introduced which NGOs say are unworkable and the Electoral Commission says may be unenforcable. (Am 52)
iii) Restrictions on campaigning organisations campaigning in coalition together. (Am 39A fell)
iv) An outdated definition of NGO supporters (Am 40 fell)
4. The House of Lords agreed to several additional changes to the Bill proposed by the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement chaired by Lord Harries including:
i) Raising the threshold for non-party organisations to register with the Electoral Commission to #20,000 for England, #10,000 for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
ii) Reducing the regulatory period to 7.5 months for the 2015 General Election (the Commission recommended 6 months indefinitely.
iii) Exempting the following costs from controlled expenditure:
• Translation into Welsh
• Making controlled activity accessible to people with disabilities
• Safety and security measures
ii) Excluding small-spending organisations from coalition campaigning rules.
A proposal to exclude charities from the regulation was rejected. It will be reviewed as part of a wider review of non-party campaigning regulation after the 2015 General Election.