An important step but still a long way to go

For those following the developments around the Lobbying Bill, the weekend will have brought some positive news. Following a meeting between our chief executive and the Leader of the House of Commons Andrew Lansley, the government has committed to change the definition of the term ‘for electoral purposes’. We think this is a significant step in the right direction. The revised definition should ensure that charities operating within charity law will not be subject to registration with the Electoral Commission, and therefore their activities should not come within the regulation outlined in part two of the Bill.

Obviously when the new wording is published we will take legal advice and urgently seek the view of the Electoral Commission, to ensure the revised definition meets the spirit and the letter of policy intent set out by government.

In the meantime, we remain concerned that other voluntary organisations and community groups may still be subject to ambiguous and damaging legislation. In particular the:

  • proposed list of activities that could towards controlled expenditure remains neither clear nor workable
  • expenditure thresholds proposed in the new bill both for registration with the Electoral Commission and as a maximum cap allowed will be damaging
  • question of how to sensibly regulate groups working in coalition remains to be addressed.

Here is an updated Parliamentary Briefing for the Committee Stage which addresses the issues in more detail.

We hope that during committee stages, Parliament will find a constructive way forward to address these problems.

However, if a revised definition of what is meant ‘for electoral purposes’, together with a clear list of activities that count towards controlled expenditure and expenditure thresholds that are restored to existing levels, cannot be achieved, we will continue to argue for the withdrawal of part two of the Bill.

 

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Elizabeth Chamberlain Elizabeth is head of policy and public services at NCVO. She has been part of the policy team since 2008, as the expert on charity law and regulation. Her policy interests also include charity campaigning, the sector’s independence, transparency, and accountability.

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