Charity campaigners this afternoon won another significant vote in the House of Lords, during the controversial Lobbying Bill’s final debate.
The Lords voted by 248-222 votes to adopt an amendment proposed by Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, which reduces the scope of the Lobbying Bill’s new limits on constituency-level campaigning.
This latest amendment follows last week, where the Lords voted to exclude a number of staff-related costs from the scope of the legislation.
ACEVO welcomed the latest breakthrough but warned that, despite these latest amendments, the bill still poses significant risks to the sector and questioned how parts of it could be enforced.
Commenting, ACEVO’s Chief Executive Sir Stephen Bubb said, “We welcome the House of Lords voting once more with our sector and choosing to improve the Government’s Lobbying Bill. The bill is still bad but thanks to the work of the Commission on Civil Society some of the most glaring defects have been addressed.
“ACEVO and the other members of the Commission worked hard to win these amendments and we are proud of the sector’s achievements during this debate. However, be under no illusions: this is still a bad bill. The Commons must accept these amendments. And we in civil society must continue to fight to influence and improve this legislation.”
Notes to editors:
1. Acevo is the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations – the charity leaders’ network. Representing over 1,500 leaders of the UK’s largest and best-known charities and social enterprises, it supports, advocates for and carries out research on behalf of the UK’s voluntary sector.
2. The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill was introduced to Parliament by Andrew Lansley MP on 17 July, without any proper pre-legislative scrutiny.
3. Acevo has consistently argued that the Bill must be fundamentally redrafted, for example in an op-ed for the Times in early September:
4. Last week Acevo welcomed the government’s concessions over thresholds for registration with the Electoral Commission, but warned that much more needed to be changed to stop the Bill gagging Civil Society and that significant risk still remained. See our articles in the Guardian and Spectator.
5. Acevo played a leading role in setting up the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement in September (), chaired by Lord Harries of Pentregarth (former Bishop of Oxford). Acevo’s Chair of Trustees, Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE is also a Commissioner. The Commission has played a critical role in negotiating with government on the Bill.
6. At Report Stage of the Bill in the Lords on 15 January 2014 Government was defeated 237 to 194 votes on an amendment proposed by Lord Harries and his supporters. This changed the Bill to remove a number of staff costs for voluntary organisations from the Bill’s draconian regime of regulation.
7. At Third Reading of the Bill in the Lords on 21 January 2014 Government was defeated 248 to 222 votes on an amendment proposed by Lord Harries and his supporters. This restricts the range of activities caught by the limits to constituency spending by non-party campaigners that the Bill introduces. The Electoral Commission have consistently stated that they do not believe these constituency limits are workable.