Sir Stephen Bubb warns: Amend Lobbying Bill further or Exclude Charities Altogether
Published: Wednesday 15 January 2014 - 14:45
Amend Lobbying Bill further or Exclude Charities altogether.
Sir Stephen Bubb, Chief Executive of ACEVO today issued a warning to the Government in advance of the Lords' debate on the Lobbying Bill.
Sir Stephen argued that charities would have no choice but to seek an exemption if further amendments to the bill were not forthcoming.
Commenting, Sir Stephen Bubb said:
"Last week the Government recognised that the Lobbying Bill as it stands is flawed and made welcome concessions on the bill.
"But ACEVO have argued consistently that the bill is still dangerous to civil society. And since the Government announced that it would make concessions we have argued consistently that there was still significant risk.
"The Lords debate today and the third reading next week must yield significant movements."
Commenting on the proposed charity exemption, Sir Stephen Bubb said:
"In the absence of significant concessions that abandon constituency limits and remove staff costs from campaign spending, ACEVO supports exempting charities from this draconian regime. While the charity sector's freedom to campaign remains under threat, we feel there is no option but to support a charity exemption. We have a duty to protect charities' historic right to campaign.
"Even if the charity exemptions are defeated in the House of Lords today we believe the government must take away a clear message. They must abandon constituency limits and staff costs.
"Now that they are amending the Bill would so it comes into force in late September, not early May, they've given themselves 4 months of leeway in which to pause and properly rewrite this bad bill."
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 have consistently argued that the Bill must be fundamentally redrafted, for example in an op-ed for the Times in early September: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article3858854.ece
4. Last week Acevo cautiously 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. See our Guardian article this week: http://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network/2014/jan/13/five-thi...
5. ACEVO played a leading role in setting up the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement in September (www.civilsocietycommission.info), chaired by Lord Harries of Pentregarth (former Bishop of Oxford). ACEVO's Chair of Trustees, Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE is also a Commissioner.
6. The Government's Report Stage Amendment 133 means that regulation of non-party campaigners before the 2015 General Election will start on 19 September rather than 23 May. This nearly 5-month delay in Part 2 of the Bill coming into force gives the government more leeway in which to pause and properly rewrite this Bill.