Campaigning and lobbying – legislation and standards

A committee of voluntary sector leaders has been created, to be chaired by NCVO’s Stuart Etherington, which will set out high-level principles for good practice in charity campaigning and lobbying, to be augmented by practical guidance and worked examples. Members include senior figures from Woodland Trust, Salvation Army, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, for instance. This is in response to the government’s proposed register of lobbyists, which would cover neither charity public affairs staff nor the vast majority of those in similar roles in other sectors. It is hoped to publish the standards in March 2014. More at NCVO press release.

Meanwhile, a diverse coalition of charities, campaign groups, academics and others has launched a Civil Society Commission in response to the proposed legislation on lobbying. Following concerns that it will have a chilling effect on charities and campaigning organisations speaking out on issues of public concern, the commission will investigate the impact. It will seek to ensure the Lobbying Bill does not threaten democratic debate in the UK, and will develop an alternative framework for regulating the activities of civil society organisations in elections. Commission website at http://civilsocietycommission.info.

The Leader of the House of Commons has announced that the government will publish amendments to the Transparency of Lobbying Bill. NCVO has said that it will take legal advice and seek member views, but NCVO continues to “have concerns that the legislation overall remains unduly burdensome and bureaucratic, leaving too much discretion to the Electoral Commission”.

Update: see NCVO’s ‘Lobbying bill – round three’ at http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2013/10/04/lobbying-bill-round-three/

In Scotland, a Holyrood committee is to conduct an inquiry into lobbying to determine whether there is a problem north of the border, either “actual or perceived”. The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee will also consider what steps might be needed to improve transparency and whether the introduction of a statutory register of lobbyists would help address any such problem. The deadline for inquiry responses is 10th January, http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/newsandmediacentre/68111.aspx.