This week I have received a flood of emails from constituents who are quite rightly worried about the lobbying bill which is being hastily brought forward by the government for parliamentary debate this week.
David Cameron was right to say in 2010 that lobbying was the next big scandal waiting to happen. This bill should be introducing a real register of lobbyists. Instead it covers just 1% of the industry, and will do nothing to prevent the scandals the Prime Minister warned against.
Instead this bill seems designed to scare charities and campaigners from speaking out, and that is not just my view but that of many respected charities. In a letter to the government, the National Council of Voluntary Organisations said that the proposed rules “will have a huge impact on charities’ day to day work. For many charities and organisations, raising awareness of the issues affecting the people and causes they support is an important part of their work”, but the bill will seriously interfere with their ability to speak up.
If any issue which a charity campaigns on subsequently becomes an election issue, they will be caught by this bill – this could affect a health charity warning about the dangers of smoking or a residents’ action group campaigning against a new development or in favour of saving facilities from closure. If those issues were later taken up by candidates in local council elections, the residents’ action group would be subject to the new rules.
The right to speak up and express your concerns is fundamental to our democracy, and that’s why I will be opposing these proposals.