• More Govt double crossing afoot on gagging bill

    4th October 2013 | News | Claire
  • The government’s plan to silence criticism is whizzing through parliament. [1] Alongside other organisations – from Oxfam to the Countryside Alliance – 38 Degrees members have been turning up the pressure on MPs. [2] And it’s working. Today, the government tried to grab back the initiative. They’ve published changes to the plans which they say would address the main concerns. [3]

    But they’re trying to dupe us – and dupe MPs. Their suggested changes are cosmetic, not substantial. The thrust of the ‘gagging law’ will remain exactly as is. And it’s not just our opinion – charities aren’t supporting the government’s changes either. [4]

    Your MP is a member of the government – so they’ll be one of the last to jump ship. But imagine the tetchy conversations they’ll be having with their ministerial colleagues if their inboxes are filling up with angry emails from their constituents.

    Ros Baston, an ex-Electoral Commission lawyer and independent expert, has written a legal briefing laying out exactly why the government changes aren’t good enough. [5] 38 Degrees members across the country today are writing to their MPs telling them not to fall for the government spin. But your MP’s in the government, so can you write to them today telling them that you’re not falling for the changes either?

    Click here to send your MP an email and a copy of the legal advice:

    The two key organisations representing charities, non-profits and voluntary organisations, NCVO and ACEVO, have also rejected today’s announcement. NCVO say that the changes “do not go far enough”, and “leave a great deal of uncertainty and ambiguity”. ACEVO has said that they “don’t prevent the Bill curbing freedom of speech around elections”. [6]

    At every previous vote, the government told MPs to keep supporting the gagging law. They were assured that the government would make changes to address the groundswell of concern. At the last vote, the minister responsible, Andrew Lansley, said he’d listened to the outcry, and that he would fix the worst bits. [7] Now his changes have been published – and they don’t fix it.

    Time is short – the vote is next week – and the issue is complex. Lansley will be hoping that there’s no wavering among fellow government MPs while he tries to steer the gagging law through. So if we can plant doubt in the minds of a few government MPs, and turn the heat up on senior figures behind the scenes, we could make his job even more difficult.

    Ros Baston’s legal advice explains in no uncertain terms how Lansley’s changes fail to deal with our concerns. Government MPs need to read it. Can you help make sure your MP reads the briefing today? Send your email now: