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Committee calls for withdrawal of ‘flawed’ Lobbying Bill

The Lobbying Bill should be withdrawn, MPs have urged.

There has been inadequate consultation and the legislation is “seriously flawed”, the cross-party Political and Constitutional Reform Committee says.

The Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill would set a £390,000 cap on the amount any organisation other than political parties could spend across the UK during elections.

The committee found a narrow definition of consultant lobbying would exclude third party lobbyists, damaging charities’ work. The second part of the Bill was also labelled “confusing”.

A special committee should be set up to improve the Bill over six months before it returns to Parliament, the MPs concluded. Special advisers and senior civil servants should also be included in the list of people with whom contact counts as lobbying, they added.

Committee chair Graham Allen MP said: “This Bill is an object lesson in how not to produce legislation. There was little or no consultation with those affected. There was no pre-legislative scrutiny. And the Bill is now being rushed through the House in a way that indicates a lack of respect for Parliament. We can all agree on the need for transparency about lobbying and effective regulation of third-party spending. But this Bill contains serious flaws. Above all, none of the measures will address the scandals that caused comment by the Prime Minister, the Coalition parties and above all the public, who will feel let down by this partial Government response.

“For these reasons, the Government must withdraw the Bill and allow a Committee of the House to carry out proper scrutiny, with the aim of producing a better Bill for reintroduction within six months.”

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “We welcome the fact that the committee agrees with the need for this legislation and we will of course consider the findings carefully and respond in due course.

“This Bill is about creating even greater transparency in the way people and organisations interact with government and politics, to give the public more confidence in the way third parties interact with the political system.

“This Bill will ensure that we know who lobbyists lobby for; how much money is spent on third party political campaigning; and make sure trades unions know who their members are.

“We look forward to working with the opposition and others as the Bill passes through Parliament to make sure we have a system that works in the long term.”

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