Lobbying bill Report stage – what we are asking MPs to do

As mentioned at the end of last week in my post ‘Lobbying bill – round three’, our view is that the amendments proposed by the government do not go far enough. This is confirmed by the legal advice that we have received, which clearly indicates that even following the amendments charities and voluntary sector campaigners will continue to face difficulties.

In particular, the amendments won’t mean that controlled expenditure will only be incurred when there is ‘bias towards a particular party or candidate’ and the clear purpose of the activity is to advocate support or directly benefit a party or candidate.

So we are preparing for this Wednesday and have written a Parliamentary briefing for Report stage.

Our key points made are that:

  • The assurances given by ministers on the floor of the house to ensure that charities will still be able to support specific policies that might also be advocated by political parties have not been met.
  • In particular, there is still too much uncertainty and ambiguity in relation to the definition of controlled expenditure.
  • The Bill will also reduce the total that registered campaigners can spend on regulated activity in the year before the general election by 60%-70%. All relevant spending on the defined activities will count towards these thresholds.

We are therefore asking MPs to support amendments 101 and 102 tabled by Graham Allen MP, Chair of the Political and Constitutional Select Committee:

  • Amendment 101: This would introduce a rewording of clause 26 that requires that “the primary purpose” of the expenditure should “reasonably be regarded as intended to” promote or procure electoral success. This would ensure that expenditure aimed at highlighting a particular issue or issues, rather than promoting a particular party or parties or candidate or candidates, is not caught by the expenditure controls.
  • Amendment 102: This would leave the existing spending and registration thresholds in place.

There will be more updates from us after the Commons’ stage.

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Elizabeth was head of policy and public services at NCVO until 2020.

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