APPC, CIPR and PRCA welcome signs of concessions on lobbying bill

Industry bodies have welcomed Liberal Democrat support for amendments to the lobbying bill's stipulations on third party political campaigning ahead of the committee stage next week.

Lobbying bill: reaches committee stage next week
Lobbying bill: reaches committee stage next week

But there is no suggestion at this stage that the party is backing any changes to part one of the bill, which concerns the statutory register of third party lobbyists.  

A party spokesman said the Government had welcomed amendments put down by Lib Dem MP John Thurso but said he was not aware of any support for any amendments to part one.  

While Thurso’s amendments are mainly intended to reduce the impact on charities of part two of the bill, which deals with third party political campaigning, he has also proposed an amendment to the lobbying part to include special advisers in the category of people lobbied to which the register relates.  

A Cabinet Office spokesman indicated the Government would listen to and address concerns on part one of the bill as much as part two.

Of the amendments on part two, the spokesman said: 'Ministers have been clear throughout the debate in the Commons on Tuesday and in meetings with charity representatives that the Bill would not capture a huge swathe of charities who are not already registered as third parties who campaign during election periods. However, we have also been clear that we want to take unaccountable money out of politics. So the Bill will seek to regulate the spending of organisations seeking to promote a particular outcome of an election.'

Iain Anderson, deputy chairman of the APPC, welcomed the Government’s willingness to make changes.  

‘I think there is a growing realisation in Government that this bill is unworkable. It is good to see the Government is taking concerns on board and, following the Select Committee’s damning report, we are hoping to see more amendments across the face of the entire bill.’  

A CIPR spokeswoman said: ‘It would seem that opposition to the bill is finally making headway.’  

The PRCA’s charity group chairman Bridget Hargreave said: ‘It's ironic that a bill threatening charities' right to campaign freely may have been stymied following this week's outcry from the sector and the PRCA.  

‘Reports of amendments to the bill are welcome, but will next week's committee stages yield a U-turn or just superficial tweaking? "Big Society" will be watching very closely, and not very quietly.’      

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