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Lobbying bill ‘deeply burdensome’ – NCVO

MPs are set to debate new rules on lobbying, which critics have warned could increase bureaucracy and stop charities from speaking out in policy debates.

The Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration bill will have its second reading in the House of Commons today.

The bill would introduce a statutory register of lobbyists and set a £390,000 cap on the amount that any organisation other than political parties can spend across the UK during elections.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) said the proposals were too complex and could restrict charities from campaigning on national issues.

Karl Wilding, director of public policy at NCVO, said: “This bill takes us from a situation in which charities and community groups largely understood the rules on what they could do, into a position where no one has any idea what the rules are, but may nevertheless face criminal prosecution for getting them wrong. This is the inevitable consequence of rushing legislation through without any consultation.

“I would like the Government to give serious consideration to putting its proposals on hold. This would give them the chance to consult properly on a solution that addresses concerns about undue influence in politics without the risk of sweeping every charity and community group in the country into a deeply burdensome bureaucratic regime.”

Leader of the house of commons, Andrew Lansley, wrote in the Telegraph: “The Transparency Bill has three key aims: to make it clear who is lobbying the Government and for whom; to make third-party campaigning at election times subject to clear rules; and to provide assurance that trade unions know who their members are.

“Each of these is intended, in different ways, to strike a balance between, on one hand, making sure individuals and organisations can use their inalienable right to a voice in politics, and, on the other, making sure our political system doesn’t fall prey to opaque and unaccountable groups who spend millions in trying to decide who wins an election. That should be a shared aim of everyone.”

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Image: June 2013 c. PA Wire


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