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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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Lobbying Bill Will Hit Charities - MP

Monday, 9 September 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has attacked the UK Government’s ill-thought-out proposals for a Lobbying Bill in the House of Commons.

Speaking in a debate in the House of Commons, Dr Whiteford drew attention to the Bill’s flaws, which have generated widespread concerns among charities and voluntary organisations.

The provisions as they stand would place heavy legislative burdens on charities and third sector bodies that campaign on political issues. Particularly onerous are significant new restrictions on what charities will be able to spend in the year before General Elections.

The Bill will come before the house for a second reading later this week, when it is hoped by campaigners that MPs will have an opportunity to amend the bill.

Speaking in the Commons debate, Dr Whiteford said:

“The measures in part 2 are particularly deeply flawed, and in spite of all the assurances we have heard from the Leader of the House, they will place undue restrictions on the ability of campaigning organisations to raise legitimate concerns about public policy issues.

“My key point is that an active, politically engaged, challenging civil society is a hallmark of democracy and the lifeblood of live political culture, every bit as much as a free press or free and fair elections. I have grave concerns that a side effect of the Bill will be to restrict the discursive space where citizens can make a fuss about public policies that affect their lives.”

The cross-party Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has already commented that the lobbying bill had been "unnecessarily rushed".

In their report, the committee said:  

"We do not believe that the government has... provided a satisfactory account of the basis on which the new levels for registration and expenditure by third parties have been set.

“The definition of spending 'for electoral purposes' as currently drafted is likely to cause confusion."

Commenting afterwards, Dr Whiteford said that she would continue to oppose the bill in its present form. She said:

“Dozens of constituents have been in contact with me regarding the impact this Bill will have on charities and voluntary organisations. I share their concerns, and have made my feelings clear in the House of Commons.

“While I recognise the need for a lobbying bill which encourages openness and transparency, the legislation as it stands pleases no one save the government. I will continue to argue for a sensible lobbying bill, which does not penalise voluntary bodies and charities.”

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