Some members of Amnesty may have been concerned that the proposed Lobbying Bill, slipped out just before the recess, would have meant that - in common with almost all other charitable organisations - they would not have been able to carry on promoting their causes in the year before an election.
If you have received material from 38 degrees you will have been asked to write to your local MP and if you did, you would have received the bland briefing to say it did not apply to charities. It did and it would have had what has been described as a 'chilling effect' on such activities.
On 6 September it was announced that the bill is to be withdrawn as it stands and some parts will be rewritten. It has been described by critics as a 'dog's breakfast' and a 'mess'.
It is disappointing to note the initial and dismissive responses to reasoned and detailed criticism of the Bill from the government and their MP's. At least it is now receiving a rethink. Watch this space.
Update 7 September: after this was written, an action from AIUK was received asking us to write to our local MP. That link is on the right in blue. Please find time to do this if you can.
Update 9 September: considerable lobbying has taken place - including from AIUK - and many people have written to their MP. John Glen has replied to one such as follows:
"The Leader of the House announced on Friday afternoon that an amendment to the Bill will be tabled next week to clarify beyond doubt that charities and campaign groups will not be gagged.
'As he made clear to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee last week ‘there should be a pretty clear distinction between those who are at the time of an election putting forward their view about policies and issues – who we have no intention of constraining, they should be free to do that – and those who are engaged in trying to secure the election of candidates and parties.’
'It was never the Government’s intention to ‘gag’ charities or campaign groups, and I am glad that has been cleared up.
'The Leader of the House on Friday met charity leaders to listen to their concerns, and as a result, the Government proposes to retain the definition of controlled expenditure as that ‘which can be reasonably regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success’. This addresses the primary concern in the legal briefing provided by 38 Degrees.
'In response, Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of the NCVO said “I am pleased the Government has listened to and significantly met the concerns of charities and community groups. I understand the Government's intention was not to make their normal work subject to this regulation. We will work closely with the Government and the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in order to deliver this intention."
'As has been the case from the start, we categorically do not want to impinge the rights charities have to campaign. However, it is also right that the outcome of elections should not be affected by big third parties pouring money into specific constituencies to secure a result in their interests."
There is still much to do with this Bill which does nothing to prevent commercial interests lobbying.
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