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."


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

    Comment number 382.

    Charities wouldn't need to spend money bribing our politicians if the politicians weren't on the take.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    Lobbying is about "educating" government, it's part of the policy making process. Ministers are not "experts", they are elected representatives. They need to be fed arguments from all sides effected by a decision, trade bodies, comsumer bodies, charities etc all lobby. It must be transparant and no individual should benefit. Although not perfect, this is a step in the right direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    @268 Hilary J

    i know Hilary but in 140 characters can only put small part of what i mean, so that was a very watered down version of what i actually wanted to say, either way lobbying should be seen as illegal due to bribery act, individuals never get the opportunity to lobby i have treid have you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    and nothing about the billionaire media barons buying influence in a country where none of them pay tax yet seek to influence the govt no lobbying rules for them

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    The problem seems to be 'Back-Door' lobbying:-

    A) Secret meetings between 'vested-interests' and MPs or/and senior civil servants.
    B) Use of False-Fronts (including some questionable charities) to disguise true intent of the lobbyist.
    C) Subliminal and/or low-level, falsely-fronted campaigns pushing agendas via social media etc. to mislead public and thus MPs.

    This bill will not stop the above.

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    " We should not seek to prevent lobbying but to make it transparent about who is lobbying whom and for what." If it's transparency Mr Lansley wants I have a couple of suggestions. No MP should receive payment of any kind from a lobbyist, and no MP may vote on an issue in which they have a financial interest. That should chop the Tory majority at most divisions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    One of the "editor's picks" is:

    "Lobbying is what MP's and parliament are there for.
    Its [sic] called democracy."

    This tells you all you need to know about BBC "editors".
    They seem preternaturally ready to toe the government line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    Elections are about people voting for Representatives not third parties seeking to influence elections.

    Why should Charities be directing any money at people during elections. They have every minute of every day to be pushing their policies at organisations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    The government is trying to gag charities. When charities like Oxfam are alarmed we should take notice. MPs vote against this bill!

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    What politicians do is called lying. They are extremely adept at it. Worryingly these days they often barely try to cover up their real intentions. Such contempt for the voters of the UK. They need to remember they are an unelected body.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    Minister should NOT be deciding what the rules are as far as lobbying is concerned because they will simply make loop holes to avoid prosecution. Lobbying is illegal and helping huge corporations ruin this country as they have the US. Politics is so corrupt and those in that house don't work for our interests. Fracking/HS2 prime example

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    I don't understand the problem.

    If you're professional lobbyist, then register and let us who you work for and what you're lobbying for.

    Any law that will increase transparency in politics should be welcome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.


    This comment has been rated down probably by a lot of people who don't quite realise that there are a lot of 'Not for Profit' organisations with employees on huge salaries.
    Many of which are public schools and colleges (which I cannot name as this post would be moderated). Their charitable status is merely a tax scam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    The more the Govt (and their trolls on this thread) protest that this is the "right thing to do" the more you can be assured that it isn't. Right in principle maybe - we all should know who is tweaking the Govt's ears or supporting this or that political party - but wrong in practice. In the end, we will be none the wiser about the real influences and denied the views of legit organisations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    In 1866 a group of 'Suffragists' lobbied parliament that women should have the same political rights as men. They were unsuccessful.

    1923, Winston Churchill acted as a highly paid lobbyist for Burmah Oil (now BP plc) to persuade the British government to allow Burmah to have exclusive rights to Persian (Iraqi) oil resources, which were successfully granted.

    Good = fail
    Bad = win (for the elite!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    Phil @364
    "perfectly obvious"
    Parts only!

    Until 'bottom line' made certain, agreeing equal partnership, we will never know the struggles behind our everyday betrayal by all of our fellow citizens

    Lobbying against those whose EVERY instinct seems wrong, perhaps it IS time to indulge our young Churchillian friend in London, one Boris Johnson, to head a government of at least the straight-talking?

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    There's one assumption being made here - that, on the introduction of new rules, MPs will adhere to them anyway. Despite the outcry over MP's expenses a couple of years back, it hasn't stopped them poking their fingers in the till or managing to find a way around the rules there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    Charities are often not very different from big business these days so I dont think they need any special dispensations. This looks like an all round good move by the government.

    This comment has been rated down probably by a lot of people who don't quite realise that there are a lot of 'Not for Profit' organisations with employees on huge salaries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    A more beneficial use of government time than this would be to look at why they have cost us another £74 million on another U-turn on changing our aircraft carrier planes.

    Then £40+ millions on the rail franchise fiasco ...

    And HS2 that no-one apart from George can see the benefits.

    How about investigating these Blunders and bringing those responsible to account?

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    The only gagging going on here is of the readers by the BBC on the topic of Syria. Comments on that are not welcome, even though It is increasingly obvious the government intends to wage war on Syria and be damned with public opinion. The creep from "I get it" to "we won't go back to Parliament with the same motion about the same incident" makes it perfectly obvious what's going on.


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