The so-called anti-lobbying bill – a “dog’s breakfast” according to one MP

3 Sep

An update on the posting below which details the debate held in Parliament about this issue today can be found HERE.

It seems the Coalition has shot itself it the foot yet again.  We all thought – hoped – that when they tackled lobbying they would target the firms (often with ex-Mps on the payroll and often the same firms offering freebies to MPs) that actually lobbied MPs.  But when the bill was published it was obvious that the net was much wider:  just about anyone who lobbied anyone about anything that might, even in a most vague way, influence an election has been caught up in the net because of the way the bill has been so badly drafted.  BY mistake?  Please let us hope so, because if it was not a mistake then it seems to be an assault on our basic democratic rights.

In an article HERE a current MP, Keith Barron (Lab) points out that he

had some concerns, pointing out that some MPs could fall under the definition of someone whose main business is lobbying.  “By implication, there is a worry that the bill may restrict what we do,” he told Allen. “You talked in your examples about people who are resident in their constituency.  “My understanding is that they not only have to be resident but registered to vote as well, which would disenfranchise people whom I represent. That needs to be addressed and pretty quickly.”  

Basically meaning that in an election period (12 months before the election date) an MP could only talk on matters brought up by someone in his or her constituency, on the electoral roll and solely about matters in his or her constituency.  How daft is that?

And the article goes on to say:

The bill will curtail the ability of charities and other non-party groups to campaign on political issues in the 12 months before a general election. The trade union Unison has also got new legal advice from Michael Ford QC, who said it represents a “serious infringement” of human rights and data protection laws.

It would cut from £989,000 to £390,000 the amount third-party groups could spend in this period before a general election.

The bill would also broaden the definition of what constitutes “election campaigning”, outlined in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act 2000. The bill says activity could be deemed to come within the terms of the act if it affects the outcome of an election even if that was not its purpose.

So, even if MPs are eventually exempted from these draconian rules, charities (such as 38 Degrees) would not be allowed to discuss anything that might affect an election result in the 12 months before that election.

That isn’t daft, it is chilling.

More information from the BBC website HERE.

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