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uk lobbying regulation bill – second reading September 3, 2013

Posted by Bradley in : lobbying , trackback

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14 is having its second reading in Parliament today (Richard III, fracking, BSkyB, and tobacco have featured in the debate). The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee issued a call for, and received, written evidence about the regulation of consultant lobbyists under the Bill. Many of the submissions argued that the Bill would create uncertainty and risked reducing rather than enhancing transparency with respect to lobbying. The Committee took oral evidence today. Meanwhile, charities and even MPs have expressed concern about the Bill. The NCVO published legal advice it obtained about the Bill from Helen Mountfield QC which identifies a number of problems of uncertainty. For example:

Much of the activity which charities and VSOs undertake is, by its nature, policy-orientated and therefore ‘political’ in the widest sense. In my view, many materials produced by charities and VSOs compatibly with the guidance in the Charity Commission Guidance CCR9 are capable of falling within the definition of ‘election materials’ (in s85(3) PPERA as it stands), or of being for an ‘election purpose’ (in s85 (2A) and s85(3) PPERA as prospectively amended by clause 26 of the Bill)… For example, an anti-poverty charity which advocates continuing to spend a particular proportion of GDP on overseas aid and publishes material saying so during the relevant period could ‘reasonably be regarded’ as intending to promote or procure electoral success for a party or parties or candidates who advocate the same in connection with future elections, even though such material could reasonably be regarded as also intended to achieve another purpose such as maintaining a high level of public expenditure on poverty reduction abroad. Thus, expenditure on materials of this kind during the year before a general election could well fall within the definition of ‘election materials’ in PPERA as it stands.

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