In January 2014, a new piece of legislation received Royal Assent. Officially it's known as the Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 – but more usually referred to as the Lobbying Act.
This guide aims to help make it as easy as possible for you to comply with the Lobbying Act.
The key things you need to know:
1. Most importantly, it shouldn't stop you campaigning
This law does not prevent us from campaigning on any issues, including those related to an election. You don't need to change your planned campaigning over this period. Please keep calm and carry on.
2. It's all about transparency and expenditure limits
This law will not silence us. It sets a limit on our expenditure on any public campaigning that could be seen as seeking to influence election outcomes, (referred to under this guidance as ‘regulated campaign activity’), these spending limits are £20,000 in England and Wales, and £10,000 in Scotland.
During the regulated period we are required to record and report on that expenditure, if we do register under the act, (the current recommendation to our board is that we don't register as we don't think we'll undertake any substantial work that will fall under 'regulated activity'), but we will need to record expenditure in case this changes.
This means that you will need to send us your expenditure on any regulated campaign activity so we can keep track of our total spending.
We very rarely spend this kind of sum on specific issues, particularly during the short election period and so the spending limits are unlikely to affect our actual work. But of course, it does place an extra administrative burden on us. We'll be monitoring the impact of this law in terms of the impact of the spending limits and the extra administration this law will cause us.
3. Only a small part of our campaigning will be covered
We have a team of staff assessing all of our campaigns to check if they are covered by the law. The vast majority of our campaigning work will not be covered and so there will be no spending restrictions and no extra reporting requirements. That’s likely to be the case for much of our work.
If a specific area of our work is regulated, we'll let you know. In addition, regardless of the campaign topic, no private campaigning is regulated – so that means private meetings you hold with each other, with MPs or prospective MPs, and any press releases you give to journalists. None of that is regulated regardless of the subject matter, unless you put the press releases or a summary of the meetings on a website, social media space, or similar.
4. So what activity will be regulated and why?
We do not try to influence elections – it is one of our founding principles that we are impartial. We must always ensure that we do not endorse any political party or any political candidate. However, we campaign for human rights awareness and for human rights change. Sometimes these issues can be of political interest and controversy and can become associated with one political party or another.
The regulations mean that, because of this, aspects of our campaigning may be regulated under this legislation if 'a reasonable person' might think that what we are doing is partly intended to influence the choices of voters, regardless of our actual intentions. We have not yet issued any campaign actions that are regulated but we will update you if this changes.
- Maintain a detailed record of all your expenditure on public activities on 'regulated campaign activity' and keep all receipts that are more than £200 in value.
- When recording expenditure, it is important to record the date of the expense, the activity to which it is contributing, where that activity took place (including postcode) and the issue on which you were campaigning. This will help us to allocate expenses against constituency.
- Please provide us with your receipts and records at the end of each month, starting end 3 May 2017. You can scan or photograph them and email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can post them to: Eilidh Macpherson, Campaigns Team, Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Action Centre, 25 New Inn Yard, London, EC2A 3EA.
- If you receive donations – including goods or services of £500 or more in value and these are specifically for regulated campaign activity, then you will need to record the donor contact details and tell us straight away so that we can ensure that this is treated correctly under the new law.
- If you are planning on printing your own materials to use publicly on 'regulated campaign activity', please talk to us first. This is because they may need to carry what is known as an 'imprint', stating the publisher and promoter. This is a simple procedure.
6. What about working with other campaigning groups in your towns and universities?
If you're working with someone on 'regulated campaign activity' as part of an Amnesty campaign, you will need to ask your partner organisations for details of their expenditure, which you should return to us with your own records. You will need to be willing to provide them with details of your own.
If you want to undertake joint campaigning outside the constituency or constituencies that are part of your local or institutional area, please get in touch. Until the next election, we do not advise working with other groups on any campaigns that are not Amnesty campaigns, unless you believe that these campaigns are not 'Regulated Campaign Activity'. This recommendation is mainly to keep things simple for you and we are happy to provide advice and support on a case-by-case basis.
7. What is our view on this legislation?
Along with many other UK charities and NGOs, we are concerned about the impact of this law on campaigning during election periods. Our position now is that we will monitor the impact of the law on our own work over the election periodas well as keeping in touch with the impact on others in civil society. We are not now, nor have we ever, seeked to influence the result of any election. We neither endorse nor condemn any political party or any political candidate.
If you are worried about anything, want advice or have any questions, please contact Eilidh in the campaigns team at email@example.com. Alternatively, email or speak to your usual contacts at the Human Rights Action Centre.