Photo above: faith leaders gather at Westminster to speak out about the Lobbying Bill (Credit: Andrew Aitchison).
The government is rushing a Bill relating to lobbying transparency through Parliament right now. The Bill regulates lobbying by different interests: the corporate sector, charities and trades unions. But there are big problems with the Bill and we're doing all we can to speak up before it's too late.
Update 16 January
Thanks so much for signing the petition on the Lobbying Bill this week. More than 160,000 people spoke out – and it worked.
Here’s what happened last night at the Lords debate and vote. The government was defeated in an important vote on the Lobbying Bill. Peers from all parties backed an amendment to limit staff costs counting towards the money they can spend ahead of elections by a country mile: 237 votes for to 194 votes against.
But even after today’s changes, the Lobbying Bill would still limit charities and campaigning organisations from speaking out ahead of elections on some of the most important issues facing the country and the planet.
The next step is Third Reading in the Lords on the 21 January (next Tues). This will discuss only issues Ministers agreed to revisit. Then the Bill goes back to the House of Commons – we’ll have to see if the changes we have won in the Lords will be respected by MPs. Expect an MP action in the coming days.
Update 10 January
The government this week (and after several weeks of delay) tabled their amendments to the Lobbying Bill. They have made some significant concessions - our campaigning is obviously working!
They have raised the threshold for spending above which organisations need to register with the Electoral Commission, as well as making some other small changes that help small community groups acting in coalition. They have proposed a body which will evaluate the effects of the legislation after the next election, too.
But problems remain.
The definition of 'campaigning' can still catch campaigning whose primary purpose is raising policy issues.
Staff costs are still included for NGOs (for a big new range of activities). These costs would likely push organisations above the threshold for reporting.
Constituency spending limits are still extremely low and still unworkable for NGOs - and probably unenforceable for the Electoral Commission.
And the definition of supporter is out-dated and relates only to financial supporters.
So there is more work to do.
The amendments (as well as those by Chair of the Civil Society Commission, Lord Harries) will be voted on on Wednesday 15 January 2014. We hope there will be some strong support among Peers for our concerns. After that the Bill heads back to the Commons. As always, we'll keep you posted and you will be vital if we're to force changes to this Bill.
Update 12 December
This week dozens of campaigners descended on Westminster on the day the Commission on Civil Society released its recommendations about the Lobbying Bill. You can find those recommendations here. More than 100 organisations now support the Commission's work, so our voice is very strong. We held a photocall with some faith leaders - check out the photo above.
More than 30 MPs and peers were lobbied, and social media was full of content about the Lobbying Bill. Five Progressio people went along, so thanks to them. It seems all this work is having a strong effect - the government are still in disarray about the Bill so there's plenty of chance to keep the conversation going. The Lords will debate ahead of Christmas, and then the Bill will head into Report Stage in the New Year.
So watch this space - there will be a chance to raise our voices again.
Update 5 December
Last night our Chief Executive Mark Lister met Lord Wallace, in charge of driving the Bill through the House of Lords.
"It was a cordial and productive meeting," said Mark. "You got the sense that he's been bombarded on all sides by concerns from organisations and individuals. We were the only organisation that presented any kind of letter from supporters, which certainly stood out! I want to thank all our campaigners who took the time to speak out - nearly 700 of you added your voice, and nearly 300 included an individual message, all of which were handed in and demonstrated the passion which Progressio supporters have for this technical but potentially disatrous Bill."
THANK YOU for your support so far!
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