NCVO is deeply concerned that changes to non-party campaigning rules in the lobbying bill will severely restrict the ability of charities to speak out on matters of public interest.
The proposals are intended to strengthen existing rules that limit what organisations can do to support political parties during an election. But the proposed changes mean that tens of thousands of charities and community groups may inadvertently be caught in the scope of deeply burdensome regulation. The new rules are so complex and unclear that they will be challenging if not impossible for charities and community groups to follow, NCVO believes.
- Read our briefing for MPs (PDF, 409KB)
- Read the opinion provided to NCVO by Helen Mountfield QC of Matrix Chambers (PDF, 391KB) – she says that the rules will put charity staff and trustees in fear of criminal prosecution if they speak out on matters of public interest, and that the bill may well violate of European freedom of expression rules
- Read our letter to Chloe Smith MP – backed by a huge range of charities including Oxfam, the Royal British Legion, and the Countryside Alliance
- MPs are invited to join our drop in session in Portcullis House
The Electoral Commission, who would have to enforce the bill, say that it ‘raises significant issues of workability’ and ‘creates significant regulatory uncertainty for large and small organisations that campaign on, or even discuss, public policy issues … and imposes significant new burdens on such organisations’. Given the Electoral Commission would have to enforce these rules, their candid Briefing for MPs (PDF, 225KB) is essential reading.
Other reading on the bill:
- Evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee (PDF). Including submissions from Citizens Advice Bureau, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Girlguiding, The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council, the RSPB, the Salvation Army, the British Legion, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI). It’s hard to find anyone that agrees with this bill.
- The British Legion – Why asking politicians to back our troops could be stopped under this sloppy law.
- The National Trust – Concerns remain around the lobbying bill.
- Hansard Society – Lobbying bill will undermine civil society campaigning.
- It’s not just charities and community groups that could be affected. Read David Allen Green’s piece for ConservativeHome – ‘The Lobbying Bill threatens new, illiberal regulation for blogs like ConservativeHome’.
- British Medical Association briefing (PDF, 87KB) – ‘The BMA is concerned that the new rules are unworkable in practice and will have serious unintended consequences for freedom of speech. We urge the government to think again and Parliament to reject these proposals.’
- Bates Wells Braithwaite briefing from charity law expert solicitors (PDF): ‘Smaller organisations, dependent on volunteer support and without access to expert advice, are likely to be hardest hit.’
- The journal of the Law Society of Scotland – Lobbying Bill could stifle election debate.