Today the House of Commons is debating the controversial "Transparency" Bill. Almost universally derided by charities, trade unions and campaigning organisations, together we have been lining up to attack the bill.
The government's bill will do nothing to ensure lobbying transparency and would have a disastrous impact on civic society organisation's right to campaign. It's crucial that it does not become law in its current form. But we cannot let the government use this to get out of their overdue commitment to clean up lobbying. We urgently need your help to make sure the government comes out with a bill that does not stifle civic society.
Please write to your MP today and demand the bill is put out to public consultation:
The government rushed out this bill before the summer recess following a string of lobbying scandals and growing demands to deliver a statutory register of lobbyists. The result is a "dog's breakfast" . It excludes the vast majority of lobbying activity from having to appear on the register. It effectively encourages companies to use think tanks, law firms and PR agencies to do their lobbying rather than organisations who are more upfront, transparent and sign up to an ethical code of conduct.
At the same time it's a 'gagging' bill with a huge list of draconian laws which would severely restrict the activities of charities, trade unions and campaign organisations in the year running up to a general election. All organisations, large and small, would be potentially affected - whether they intend to influence the election or not. It's crazy: the government are arguing that corporate lobbyists should not be burdened by lobbying legislation while imposing far stricter legislation on charities and community groups. So much for the "big society"!
There has been no consultation on the non-party campaigning section of this bill and government ministers seem to be genuinely unaware of the full implications of this bill. It is crucial that the bill is subjected to wider scrutiny than the government's rushed timetable currently allows.
We want the government to reverse their priorities: stricter rules for corporate lobbyists and sensible regulation of non-party campaigning at election time. At this stage, the only way to do that is to take the bill off the table and to open it up to a public consultation. Please write to your MP today and demand they ensure the bill gets the scrutiny it deserves:
Director, Unlock Democracy
PS. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has published legal opinion suggesting that the law would breach the right to freedom of speech, while the Electoral Commission has published grave concerns about its lack of clarity and potential impact .
 PDF: http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Opinion-for-NCVO-on-Part-2-of-the-Transparency-Bill.pdf
 PDF: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/156580/Transparency-of-Lobbying-Non-Party-Campaigning-and-Trade-Union-Administration-Bill-Second-Reading-Briefing.pdf