GWYNNE BLOG: This Lobbying Bill will gag charities and campaigners

handshakeThe Government have got themselves in to a real mess with this gagging bill. After being forced in to a panic pause on part two they then had to grant a series of concessions.

While those concessions make a bad bill slightly better, they don’t go far enough and the gag on charities and campaigners remains firmly in place.

That is why it is so important that the Commons votes to keep the three amendments that the Lords defeated the Government on – the exclusion of some staff costs from the slashed spending limit, the narrowed constituency limit and the inclusion of special advisors in the definition of those who can be lobbied.

I will be voting to keep those amendments in the bill and I have been urging my colleagues to do the same. As far as we can, we will try to make an awful bill a little better.

Only David Cameron could present a Lobbying Bill that doesn’t stop commercial lobbyists influencing government policy, but could stop charities and campaigners from campaigning about it. No wonder people think he stands up for the wrong people.

This has been a bad bill from word go, and the Government should have just gone back to the drawing board.

Everybody is against the bill apart from, seemingly, the Government. The lobbying industry, campaigners and charities are all against the Government’s Bill and support a universal register.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), for example, has asked the Government to re-draft the definition of lobbying to “reflect a more realistic understanding of the lobbying profession to capture all those who lobby in a professional capacity”.

The Prime Minister seems to be staggeringly incapable of recognising the appalling quality and scope of his bill. I am not sure what it is about the Conservative Party and refusing to listen to the experts, but it seems to be a recurring mistake – first they buried their fingers in their ears over the Health and Social Care Act, when almost every professional medical body told them it would not work, and now this.

We need to get the big money out. We need to regulate a lobbying industry that has lived in the shadows for too long.

The government has overwhelmingly failed to achieve this. A Labour Government in 2015 will not squander such an opportunity to clean up our politics.

Tory MP Douglas Carswell put it particularly succinctly. Upon hearing that the bill had been described as a “dog’s breakfast”, he remarked, “He is wrong, of course. Far more thought has gone into pet nutrition than into this Bill.”

How very true.

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