Dear Hugo and Neil
I was so disappointed to learn that you both had voted with the party line on the lobbying bill.
The way the government has handled the lobbying bill is quite deplorable:
*there were no white or green papers before part 2 of the bill was laid before parliament
* the government did not consult any of the major stakeholders before publishing the bill
* the bill was laid before the House of Commons on 17 July 2013, the day before the summer recess.
* Commons second reading was the day after MPs returned in September
Not surprisingly there has been very widespread criticism of both the handling and the content of the Bill.
The Political and Constitutional reform Select Committee said: “This bill is an object lesson in how not to produce legislation.”
The House of Lords Constitution Committee said: “The handling of the bill is a matter of significant concern”
The Joint Select Committee on Human Rights said: “This amounts to an abuse of the parliamentary legislative and scrutiny process”.
Sensible amendments proposed by the Lords last week that would have given charities more freedom, were squashed by conservative and libdem MPs.
I have read the conservative party literature on the gagging law and I don’t know how you can deny that the law would have a negative impact on charities, when virtually every charity in the country is telling you that it will affect them – very much so.
And how can a law that was supposed to restrict the worst excesses of big business, have so little impact on big business?
One only has to pick up a newspaper to get a clear impression of the influence that big business is having on this government. To the detriment of the people, but to the financial benefit of conservative party coffers.
As the Bishop of Derby said during the Lords second reading debate: “The public wants legislation that politics and corporate lobbying more transparent. Instead this bill makes almost no change to lobbying rules, while punishing civil society for a loss of trust in politics that is not its fault.”
How can the people of this country have faith in the government of this country when it appears that it listens more to big business than to its people?
The Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, Chaired by Lord Harries of Pentragarth, says that there is a “significant risk” that the bill would result in an end to campaigning by smaller organisations and local groups, and that this “would have grave implications for democratic participation”. The commission also expresses concern that the bill will “curtail freedom of expression.”
As Lord Harries` Commission quite rightly warns, this bill would severely damage the ability of charitable organisations to engage in the electoral processes, and would severely damagethe right of charities to express views and campaign on changes that would effect society. the bill is nothing less than an assault on our democratic processes.
I hope that you will both review how you vote before the Bill next comes before parliament.
Independent Devon County and East Devon District Councillor
Woodland Trust Tree Champion For Devon
Ottery St Mary Rural Ward
tel: 01404 812531