Lobbying bill sinister and partisan, says Labour

 
Houses of Parliament The bill would set a £390,000 spending cap on organisations at election time

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Labour has criticised proposed rules on lobbying, including a limit on the amount of money charities and trades unions can spend on funding election candidates, as "sinister and partisan".

Legislation debated for the first time by MPs on Tuesday would cap such budgets at £390,000.

Labour's Angela Eagle said this was a "sop to the powerful".

But the government insisted reform was needed and that charities' ability to campaign would not be "constrained".

The Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill would set the £390,000 cap on the amount any organisation - excluding political parties - could spend across the UK during elections.

It also aims to alter the legal requirements on unions' to keep their list of members up to date.

The government won a vote on the general principles of the bill at second reading - its first parliamentary hurdle - by 62 votes and the legislation will now proceed to detailed scrutiny by MPs.

However, five Conservatives - Douglas Carswell, Philip Davies, David Davis, Zac Goldsmith and David Nuttall - voted against the bill while others also expressed concerns.

'Should be limits'

The Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley, told MPs there should be limits on the amount charities and other organisations could spend on helping a party or candidate at election time.

Alexandra Runswick says the Lobbying Bill will make "transparency and lobbying worse in the UK"

He said: "Let me give this assurance - we are very clear that we are in no sense seeking to change the boundary between campaigning on policies and issues which charities do and third parties do to a substantial extent."

He added: "Charities, think-tanks, NGOs (non-governmental organisations) should not be alarmed that this in any sense impacts on their ability to campaign on policy issues."

He said: "Let me be clear, lobbying is a necessary, indeed an inevitable, and very often a welcome part of policy-making and the parliamentary process. We should not seek to prevent lobbying but to make it transparent about who is lobbying whom and for what."

Mr Lansley also said: "The campaigning by third parties at the last election was not in any substantial way undertaken by charities. It was undertaken by other third parties - trade unions, companies, campaign groups, etc etc. So the idea that charities are in any way constrained is completely wrong."

For Labour, shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle called the bill "one of the worst pieces of legislation I've seen any government produce in a very long time".

Referring to Mr Lansley's former role as health secretary, she added: "I think the last bill this bad might even have been the Health and Social Care Act, and your fingerprints were all over that one too."

'Disproportionate'

Ms Eagle also said: "This bill is hurried, badly drafted, an agglomeration of the inadequate and sinister and partisan...

"It's a sop to powerful, vested interests; a sinister gag on democratic debate in the run-up to the general election; a shameful abuse of the legislative process to make cheap, partisan points. This is a very bad bill."

Oxfam, the Royal British Legion, and the Salvation Army are among organisations voicing fears that the government's proposed bill is so complex that it is likely to be "impossible" to follow.

The statutory register would cover only lobbyists working as consultants for companies or organisations, rather than their in-house staff, with ministers saying this mirrors the voluntary code already in place across the profession.

However, the campaign group Unlock Democracy says this would exclude 80% of lobbyists from the list.

In the Commons, Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith argued that large businesses, employing their own lobbyists, would have a "disproportionate relationship" with ministers and officials, with smaller concerns losing out.

The prime minister's official spokesman said the government would "always listen to concerns that are raised" but the bill contained "the right proposals".

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

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 622.

    If a Law can be abused by government, be it local or national, then it assuredly will be & often before the ink is dry.
    This is atrocious legislation; badly thought out, badly worded & badly in need of consignment to the waste paper shredder.
    What IS wrong with the Tories - the "bedroom tax" was bad enough but pales into insignificance as far as potential (& inevitable) damage is concerned.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 621.

    Theres little more sinister than old 1970s comrade dinosaurs pulling the strings of Labour,with presumption of donation to the party by union members.End cash-lobbying,altogether.That said,Westminster lost all credibility in the eyes of the electorate a few generations back, hence the rise of negative voting in elections-who you want to keep out,not who you have faith in voting in.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 620.

    Democracy needs an overhaul.
    The concept of an MP and political parties is based on poor communication and interaction that was inherent in the past.

    Today, MP's and parties could be bypassed by direct involvement of voters in decision making. We could remove partisan politics using modern technology.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 619.

    Party politics make a mockery of democracy. Politicians worry more about upsetting the front bench more than standing up for the voters. I no longer trust any party not to help itself first. This bill appears to be about cutting Labour funding and is little to do with corruption. No individual or group should be able to influence policy but money talks.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 618.

    If Labour don't like it it must be a good idea!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 617.

    Basically, this is the equivalent of Osborne + family waving a shotgun and shouting "Get orf my land, peasant.." They are doing everything to stuff their pockets. Lending for loans has seen all money go to top end mortgage applications and Q.E. poured money into the pockets of the rich. This bill is to stop us moaning about it..

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 616.

    608. Mooker

    "They are taking away our freedoms.

    And we are allowing it."

    Whats new? The tories have been taking away freedoms since the '80s and the public have let it happen because of stupidity and swallowing the plausible propaganda.

    I wonder how much further the lib dems will go in selling out their "principles" - or whether they only pretend to have them around election time

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 615.

    sinister and partisan words that labour know well...dont trust anyone who lets children suffer as milliband condemned lots to..

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 614.

    'Sinister' would be Labour's opportunistic vote over Syria for party political reasons.

    Labour need to stop sounding so shrill over every single issue.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 613.

    Internet lobbying such as 38 Degrees is the future of democracy, these are individuals expressing their opinion. Government does so much for which it has no mandate and was not in the manefesto and should be kept in check.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 612.

    So the consensus is lobbying is allowed for labour but not for the tories.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 611.

    Quite right - why are charities campaigning for a particular party or candidate? Charities should NOT be party political and the only reason Labour are whinging is because they hide behind Cooperative candidates rather than be honest and up front about their funding. Ban all party political lobbying from charities not simply restrict the amount. Campaign on issues NOT parties!!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 610.

    This sort of biased bill is the kind of thing that will give the SNP a real boost. An independent Scotland will avoid such anti-democratic laws.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 609.

    597michelle grande
    snap! Mind you,I AM a member of 38Degrees,and proud to be so.I will admit to being a pain in the neck,as far as my MP is concerned,raising matters that are of concern to me and many others.
    It seems that our political reps are not very keen on ordinary plebs like me having a voice.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 608.

    They are taking away our freedoms.

    And we are allowing it.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 607.

    ALL lobbying should be made illegal! It's very purpose is to sway MP's and ministers into carrying out the bidding of some interested party... usually one with lots of money and power already!
    What are government researchers and advisers for? Surely they should be providing non partisan facts and information to ministers on all issues rather than allowing those who seek influence to do it!?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 606.

    So, the people cannot attempt to influence politicians through charities or protest organisations but companies can continue to do so through in-house lobbyists.

    This bill couldn't be more Tory if the Lib Dems had their spines surgically removed.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 605.

    How many times in recent history have the people voted to lose their own voices?

    The English people, at least, are afraid of freedom. They are afraid of responsibility. They do not want to get together and win any sort of power, because it is far easier to whimper under the heel of their leeching superiors.

    So over 10 million vote not to be served, but to be ruled. Look at your fellow citizen.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 604.

    As most unions are registered charities they don't pay tax.

    Which means that when they give money to Labour it's actually the U.K tax-payer that's funding them.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 603.

    This bill allows the most powerful to take what little power is left for the little people away for themselves.

    Anti democratic and not in the interest of the British people..

 

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