• MPs obey the whips orders on gagging law vote

    22nd January 2014 | News | Claire
  • Here’s a quick update on how it went today, with MPs voting again on the gagging law.

    I’m afraid it’s bad news. Most Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs chose to follow party orders. They reversed the main improvements made in the House of Lords.

    This means they voted:
    – to remove new rules limiting secret lobbying by big business
    – to put back in key limits on what campaigners, charities, and voluntary groups can do to speak up on issues of the day [1]

    It’s pretty depressing. But it’s not over. The House of Lords will now get another vote – probably next week. They have the option to refuse to back down, and force MPs to vote yet again.

    The votes were quite close. A number of government MPs did rebel – thanks in no small part to all the petitions, leaflets, emails and events which 38 Degrees members like you made happen.

    If 17 more Conservative or Lib Dem MPs had voted differently, we would have won. Maybe we can get some more to change their minds next time around?

    Details of how each MP voted will be posted on the 38 Degrees website, as soon as they are published (probably tomorrow morning).

    All of us will need to think quickly about what we do next to stand up for democracy and freedom of speech. Options could include:
    – a fresh push to encourage the Lords to hold firm next week
    – naming and shaming MPs who voted to make the gagging law worse again today and pushing them to change their minds
    – looking at options for legal challenges to the gagging law’s provisions
    – thinking through ways we can keep campaigning and speaking up on the issues that matter despite the gagging law

    Today, there’s lots to feel fed up about. Yet again we’ve seen MPs push through a law which the public have never voted for, and which has been heavily criticised by everyone from the United Nations to the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Women’s Institute to the Royal British Legion. [2]

    But there are reasons to feel hopeful too. This campaign has brought together so many different organisations and so many people from all walks of life. [3] Together we’re proving that whilst faith in politicians is at an all time low, passion for real democracy is alive and kicking.

    If you have thoughts or suggestions on what we should do together next, or just want to share how you’re feeling, you can join the conversation on the 38 Degrees Facebook page, here:

    Alternatively, please reply to this email leaving the subject line the same.

    I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts.

    Hopefully we can all agree on one thing, though. This definitely isn’t the time to give up. The kind of issues that 38 Degrees members choose to campaign on – like protecting the NHS, preserving our countryside, improving democracy and challenging tax dodging – are way too important to leave to politicians.

    An alarming number of politicians seem to want us to shut up. But, I’m very glad to say, we’re just not going to!

    Thanks for everything you do,

    38 Degrees Executive Director

    PS: On the subject of MPs wanting to shut us up, here’s the story of the MP who called the police when 38 Degrees members visited him to deliver a petition!

    And here’s an MP saying it’s “stupid” to email your MP!

    PPS: MPs let us down today, but it isn’t quite over yet – so please do share your ideas for what we could do next. Either by replying here or by posting on the 38 Degrees Facebook page:

    [1] There were 3 big votes in the Commons today:
    – On the vote to require Ministers’ special advisors to record their meetings with lobbyists 311 MPs voted to reject the change, and 258 voted to accept them.
    – On the vote to reject Lords’ changes to how much staff costs count towards total spending limits, amendment 108: 310 MPs voted to reject the changes, and 278 MPs to accept them into the Bill
    – On the vote to reject Lords’ changes to the scope of what activity counts towards constituency spending limits, amendments 26 and 27: 314 MPs voted to reject the changes, and 274 MPs to accept them

    [2] The Guardian: Lobbying bill will tarnish Britain, says UN official:
    National Federation of Women’s Institutes: Briefing page on the Lobbying Bill:
    Citizens Advice Bureau: Lobbying Bill briefings:
    The Royal British Legion: Lobbying Bill: Why asking politicians to back our troops could be stopped under this sloppy law:

    [3] Over 130 NGOs, including 38 Degrees, and over 160,000 people signed a petition against the gagging law: http://civilsocietycommission.info/petition/