14 January 2014
A UN official has criticised the Government’s Lobbying Bill, which has already caused widespread controversy.
Maina Kiai, UN Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, is of the opinion that despite reforms made to the Bill due to pressure from charities, if it is not amended further it will minimise people’s freedom of speech in light of the upcoming general election in 2015.
Kiai, a Kenyan lawyer appointed by the UN’s Human Rights Council, went on to say in an article published on the Observer website: “Although sold as a way to level the electoral playing field, the Bill actually does little more than shrink the space for citizens – particularly those engaged in civil society groups – to express their collective will. In doing so, it threatens to tarnish the United Kingdom’s democracy.”
He wrote: “Provisions ostensibly designed to target corporate lobbyists have a loophole so big it swallows the rule. In-house lobbyists – which enjoy the most influence in the UK government by far – are exempt. That leaves unions and civil society as taking the brunt of the Bill’s impact.”
The IER believes that the Lobbying Bill will have a negative impact on trade unions and will minimise their role in the protection of people’s basic human rights in and out of the workplace. If this is diminished then there will be insecurity and vulnerability in the workplace.
Although the government made amendments that are supposed to address the various problems with the Bill, the IER highlights that the third part of the Bill, which has the greatest effect on trade unions, has remained the same, despite warnings about its impact from a government-commissioned and business-led regulatory committee.
As a result, the IER remains discontent with the Lobbying Bill, which is seen by many as a gagging order. Also, all the demands made by trade unions that need to be addressed by the government are still on the table.