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Trust encourages civil society groups to contribute to lobbying bill consultation

Tuesday 5 November saw a success for many campaigners, as the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning a Trade Union Administration Bill was paused for five weeks. The bill, referred to by many as the ‘gagging law’, threatens the ability of voluntary organisations and charities to campaign.

 

The Lobbying Bill places limitations on the activities of voluntary organisations and other civil society groups in the run up to an election, this includes reducing the spending limit on what can be spent in the year by 60%, reducing the spending threshold for registering with the Electoral Commission to Campaign by 50% and introducing new spending limits in constituencies. In addition to this, the bill also widens the range of activities that are regulated to now include market research and public events.

 

The Trust is calling upon groups across civil society to support the efforts of the Commission for Civil Society by giving evidence to inform the commission’s second consultation report before the bill returns to the House of Lords.

 

In advance of the House of Lords committee stage, the Commission for Civil Society conducted a consultation outlined a number of recommendations in a report. This report had a clear impact on the progress of the bill. Following the recent pause of the bill for further consultation, the Commission for Civil Society is once again inviting representatives from civil society institutions across the UK to give further evidence. This will support the Commission’s second consultation report to inform another series of recommendations.

 

The Consultation questions are as follows:

 

  1. Do you agree with the Government that there is a perception of ‘undue influence’ by third parties during election periods? Can you name examples of when you have seen this happen in previous elections?
  2.  Where do you think the line between issue focussed campaigning and campaigning for the electoral success of a party or candidate should fall? Can you name examples? E.g. Should a document setting out what parties or candidates think about a policy issue – but not calling for the electorate to vote for a party or candidate – be caught by regulation?
  3.  Which campaigning activities do you think should be regulated? Which do you think should not be regulated? E.g. Do you think staffing costs or opinion polls should be subject to regulation?
  4.  How do you think appropriate thresholds for registration should be judged? What threshold do you think is appropriate? For info, the Government is currently proposing changing the threshold from £10,000 to £5,000 in England, and from £5,000 to £2,000 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  5.  How do you think the spending limit for non-party campaigning should be judged? Should there be a limit? What if any cap should there be? E.g. The previous limit was 5% of the political party spending limit. Do you think a proportion of political party limits is an appropriate way to decide? What other ways might there be of deciding?
  6.  Do you think non-party campaigning in coalition should be restricted? How do you think non-party campaigners working in coalitions should be regulated?
  7.  Do you think that non-party campaigning organisations should be limited on what they can spend in a single constituency? Do you think accounting for spending in individual constituencies is workable?
  8.  Do you think that the devolved nations should have different registration thresholds and spending limits to England? How should these be set / determined? NB please specify whether your organisation campaigns in any or all of the devolved nations
  9. What should the reporting requirements for non-party campaigners be? Where should the balance between transparency and bureaucracy fall?
  10. How long should the regulated period for non-party campaigning be? How should the length of this period be arrived at?

 

Written submissions should be sent by close of business on Thursday 28th November to [email protected]

 

Details of sessions to provide verbal evidence are as follows:

 

Belfast – Northern Ireland Consultation

 

Date: Monday 25th November

Time: 12pm – 2pm

Location: Room B, Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, 61 Duncairn Gardens, Belfast BT15 2GB

Commissioner: Georgette Mulheir

 

London – England Consultation

 

Date: Monday 25th November

Time: 12pm – 2pm

Location: Seminar Room, Amnesty International,25 New Inn Yard, London, EC2A 3EA

Commissioners: Lord Richard Harries and Nick Pickles

 

Edinburgh – Scotland Consultation

 

Date: Tuesday 26th November

Time: 2:30pm – 4:30pm

Location: Edinburgh Training and Conference Venue, 16 St Marys Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 1SU

Commissioner: Professor Andrew Chadwick

 

Cardiff – Wales Consultation

 

Date: Wednesday 27th November

Time: 2pm – 4pm

Location: Harbour Room, Wales Council for Voluntary Action, Baltic House, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff, CF10 5FH

Commissioner: Toni Pearce

 

If you would like to attend any of these sessions, contact Bryony Walker at [email protected], 07865495440.

 

For further information please contact Clare Hammacott, Commission Secretariat Manager: [email protected], 07841114999