Lobbying Bill: MPs mustn't overturn crucial changes
MPs mustn’t overturn crucial changes to the controversial Lobbying Bill that lessen its burden on charities, when it is discussed in the House of Commons tomorrow (Wednesday 22 January 2014), says Friends of the Earth.
The call comes as the Government was defeated in the House of Lords earlier today (Tuesday 21 January 2014), when peers backed an amendment to reduce the regulatory burden for NGOs campaigning in individual constituencies. Last week peers from all parties overwhelmingly passed an amendment that would see less of charity and campaigning groups’ staffing costs counted as election-related expenditure.
Following today’s Government defeat in the house of Lords, Friends of the Earth Senior Campaigner Liz Hutchins, said:
“Yet again Ministers have suffered a heavy defeat by peers over their poorly thought out and highly damaging Lobbying Bill.
“We should all be worried when governments try to restrict people speaking out about politically contentious issues ahead of elections.
"This is a bad Bill that has been marginally improved in the House of Lords following concern from hundreds of charities and campaigning groups on behalf of their supporters.
"MPs must not overturn these changes when they vote again on this Bill."
Notes to editors:
1. The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill has three parts. Charities and voluntary organisations are opposing Part 2 which changes regulation of non-party campaigning ahead of elections. (Parts 1 and 3 have also been severely criticised, they introduce a register of lobbyists and new reporting requirements for trade unions)
2. On Tuesday 21 January 2014 the Government was defeated in an important vote on Part 2 on the Lobbying Bill for the second time. Peers from all parties backed an amendment to reduce the regulatory burden for NGOs campaigning in individual constituencies."
3. On Wednesday 15 January 2014 the Government was 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.
4. More than 130 charities and campaigning organisations and over 160 000 people back House of Lords changes to the Bill.
5. The Bill is reaching the end of the Parliamentary process. Lords Report stage for Part 2 was on Wednesday 15 January. The Lords Third Reading was on Tuesday 21 January. The Commons consideration of the Bill is on Wednesday 22 January (but not confirmed). Royal Assent is expected by the end of January.
6. In October 2013 Helen Mountfield QC said the Lobbying Bill would have a 'chilling effect' on campaigning.
7. Ministers responsible for the Bill are: Andrew Lansley (Con) and Tom Brake (LD) in the House of Commons Lord Wallace of Tankerness (LD) and Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) in the House of Lords