Lobbying bill passes second reading

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MPs voted to pass the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill at second reading on 3 September 2013.

The bill, which would introduce a statutory register of lobbyists, was published in July following allegations about the links between lobbying firms, MPs and peers.

It changes the legal requirements for people or organisations who campaign in relation to elections but are not standing as candidates or a registered political party.

It also changes the legal requirements in relation to trade unions' obligations to keep their list of members up to date.

Labour had opposed the bill, claiming that it placed unfair limits of charities and trade unions.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister John Trickett accused the government of seeking to allow "lobbying by the rich and powerful to continue in an unregulated way, and in the shadows, whilst at the same time seeking to silence the wider civic society".

For the government, Deputy Leader of the House Tom Brake said the bill would encourage a "culture of openness and transparency" and that a register of lobbyists was promised in the coalition agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

"This bill is not about closing down charities' ability to influence policy."

Mr Brake said charity law already forbids party political campaigning, and most campaigns by charities were "unlikely to come within the definition of controlled expenditure" during election campaigns.

After more than six hours of debate, MPs voted to give the bill a second reading by 309 votes to 247, a government majority of 62.

A Labour amendment saying the bill's proposals "cover only a tiny minority of the industry and will make lobbying less transparent" and criticising a lack of pre-legislative scrutiny was defeated by 243 votes to 313, a majority of 70.

The bill would apply to the whole of the UK with the exception of the provisions on trade unions' membership lists, which would not affect Northern Ireland.

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