GWYNNE BLOG: Lib Dem Lobbying Bill betrayal will not be forgotten

student demoLast night, the Lobbying Bill passed the final stage of legislative scrutiny before the Queen signs it off. After Lords had their say, inflicting three defeats on the Government, MPs refused to accept the Labour-supported amendments. The Lords did not reinstate the amendments, meaning that it will now become law.

A huge alliance of charities and interest groups opposed the Bill, knowing they would be severely restricted in what they could do to fight for their members and supporters. They pointed out the appalling quality and scope of the bill, but the Government refused to listen to reason.

This law will gag legitimate charities and campaigners, and let big corporate lobbyists off the hook. I have been struggling to think of a more poorly drafted piece of legislation from throughout my time in Parliament. I cannot think of one.

It may be a tired cliché, but freedom of speech forms the core of our rights and freedoms as British citizens. To lose it is an enormous step back in our progress as a civilised society.

Organisations like the National Union of Students, which represents hundreds of thousands of students, will have their activities severely restricted. If the enormous hike in tuition fees had been in the period before the 2015 general election, the demonstrations and campaigns the NUS used in their fight against the Lib Dem betrayal would have had their scope significantly reduced.

The glaring problem with this law is that it does not actually stop commercial lobbyists influencing government policy. But it will stop charities and campaigners from campaigning about it.

Firms with in-house public affairs teams and firms whose main business is not lobbying will not have to join the register. The Association of Professional Political Consultants estimate that only around one per cent of all lobbyists will be covered.

No wonder people think the Prime Minister stands up for entrenched interests.

Once again, the Liberal Democrats have propped up their Tory paymasters and pushed through an outrageous bill with no redeeming features at all. They have silenced their many critics in civil society. Crucially, they have stopped student unions from campaigning against Liberal Democrat MPs in 2015.

Hardly a liberal measure to force through Parliament. Come to think of it, hardly democratic either.

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