17 January 2014
The Lobbying Bill has been amended in the House of Lords despite previous concessions by the government in order to soften it.
The recent concessions made by government included stopping the plan to halve from £10,000 to £5,000 the amount that charities may spend on campaigning in an election year. Instead, the limit has been doubled to £20,000.
Despite these changes, the government has still been defeated in the House of Lords. This shows to what extent the bill is primarily defective and it is no surprise that the government’s meagre concessions were not enough as the proposals impose major impacts on charities and other organisations.
The House of Lords voted on various aspects of the bill and decided, as a result, to exclude “background staff costs” from the campaigning spend limit, reducing the impact on charities once more.
With a majority of 43, the peers voted in favour of an amendment proposed by the previous bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. This amendment would offer the opportunity for campaigning groups and charities to be exempt of staffing fees in relation to press conferences an rallies from new restrictions.
However, even after the Lords’ amendments the bill is still threatening to cause major restraints and pressure upon trade unions and workers rights.
Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, said,
“This latest breakthrough for Lord Harries and the Commission on Civil Society is very encouraging. It emphasises how right ACEVO was to help set up this coalition of more than a hundred civil society organisations. It was the right thing to stand together and insist the bill still posed significant risk even after the government’s welcome amendments last week.
“But let’s not get carried away yet – we welcome the movements that have been made but we still want the government to move on subjecting civil society organisations to limits on their local, constituency-based campaigns. This provision still has the potential to silence the crucial voice of civil society. We will continue to argue the case for our members and not be complacent. We have done well to get this far. Let’s keep up the pressure.”
The IER believes that the Lobbying Bill should be thrown out and rewritten, as it is widely acknowledged that it fails to crackdown on the most powerful lobbyists yet attacks trade unions and charities – the very organisations that provide the people with a voice. The fact that the government has been defeated in the House of Lords proves that the bill was unrealistic and dangerous in the first place.
The demands made by unions still stand and must be addressed in order to stop the government’s proposals from increasing workers’ vulnerability in the workplace.