The Countryside Alliance viewhttp://www.countryside-alliance.org/ca/communities/regrettable-that-mps-rejected-key-amendments-to-lobbying-bill

It is deeply regrettable that on 22 January MPs rejected key amendments, made in the House of Lords, which would have limited the damage that Part 2 of the Lobbying Bill will do to democratic engagement in this country. The Government has continued to claim that this legislation would not curtail the ability of organisations to campaign, and many MPs have accepted these assurances. But it is not true. 

It has been suggested to us that if we wish to campaign during election periods then we should join a political party or form a new one. Of course this is something that we as a campaigning organisation would not want to do.

This legislation will see campaigners and charities subject to restrictions for one year in five of every fixed term parliament. Future governments will now enjoy a “safe” period when they can pass controversial legislation and know that they will face less opposition than they might otherwise have done.

If the law had been as the Government now intends ahead of the 2001 and 2004 general elections we could not have marched, rallied, demonstrated or campaigned as we did against the Labour Government’s legislation to ban hunting.

We would have reached our spending limit very quickly and had to put up and shut up.

It can only be hoped that the House of Lords will show its independence by insisting on its reasonable amendments and exercising its constitutional duty of protecting the constitutional rights of the electorate.

Devon Wildlife Trust positionhttp://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/view-news/2014/01/10/Government+seeks+to+restrict+charity+campaigning/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Government+seeks+to+restrict+charity+campaigning&utm_content=Government+seeks+to+restrict+charity+campaigning+CID_cc584ea91fc1c7e9d9e0b36e87fe3306&utm_source=Envirosend&utm_term=Government%20threat%20to%20charity%20campaigning

We are facing a very serious threat to freedom of speech, and the work of charities like The Wildlife Trusts.  On Wednesday next week the House of Lords will vote on the Lobbying Bill.  If you haven’t heard about this Bill before, that’s because the government attempted to get it through parliament without consulting the public!

The Lobbying Bill was introduced to bring about some much needed controls on political lobbying generally, but recent changes are threatening to place major restrictions on charity campaigning.  Hundreds of charities, from Oxfam to the Salvation Army, have joined forces to stop this bill from preventing legitimate campaigning.

In its current form, the Bill’s most serious impact would be in the year running up to a general election.  Much of the wildlife protection law that we rely so much on, such as the laws to protect threatened species and habitats, beautiful places and marine wildlife, have been secured through careful lobbying in the run up to elections, and then holding political parties to their promises.  And this isn’t just an environmental issue.  If you are concerned about homelessness, disability, vulnerable children, caring for the elderly or a host of other causes, the proposed restrictions on charities’ work in the Lobbying Bill could be just as damaging.

Thanks to concerted action by a coalition of charities (of which The Wildlife Trusts is a member) some changes to the Bill have already been agreed.  But they are nowhere near enough.  A further set of changes is being discussed in the House of Lords next Wednesday.  We need to make as much noise as we can prior to that to help ensure the changes are agreed.  NB the Wildlife Trusts are not trying to stop the Bill, or the more sensible controls it introduces.  We are just trying to stop elements that would prevent perfectly reasonable campaigning by charities.

This could be our last chance to influence the Lobbying Bill.  Please help us by signing the e-petition: http://civilsocietycommission.info/petition/

Thank you

Harry Barton, Chief Executive