There is often hyperbole around the impact of policy and legislation at any stage of its deliberation and, working in public policy, it is important to look beyond the headlines – the devil really is in the detail. When I saw claims that the Lobbying Bill currently going through Parliament could have ‘a chilling effect on campaigning in the voluntary sector’, I wondered whether the impact of the legislation was really going to be as shocking as some of the headlines. The further I delved into the legislation and the policy, the more I was shocked.
When the Lobbying Bill was originally released, the limited plans to register professional lobbyists caused a bit of a stir, but this proved to be somewhat diverting the attention from the real issues with the legislation. Part 2 of the Bill seeks to change the law on what non-party organisations, and charities such as CHC, can do in the run up to a general election (UK and Welsh!). Such was the outrage at the measures – which propose huge regulatory obstacles for groups wishing to campaign - the Countryside Alliance and the League Against Cruel Sports came together to campaign on the issue.
We were lucky to receive support from a number of parties in Wales in our opposition to the Bill, but it took an enormous amount from the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement to get support at Westminster, and eventually a six week pause in the bill for consultation. I was delighted to see in the Commission’s second report today that they are recommending an exemption for all charities from the legislation, but this is far from the end of the journey. We must now work with the 100 or so other charities supporting the Commission’s work to ensure that our voices are heard in opposition to the legislation, and ensure that the Commission’s recommendations are applied.
Lobbying is a key function of CHC, and the housing sector has been successful in recent years in making the case to politicians about the importance of the work we do. Regardless of who is seeking election, or who may be in government, we must be allowed to continue in this role to affect positive change across society.
Whether it’s Russell Brand or Nigel Farage telling us, we constantly hear that people are disillusioned with politics, and it beggars belief that any politician could support a bill that will prevent ordinary people coming together to campaign on the issues that matter to them.
For more details on the bill, see the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement website.
You can also show your support for 38 Degrees’ petition against the bill here.
Policy Officer, CHC