Labour manifesto promises toughened lobbying regulation, support for BBC and new measures for media plurality

The Labour Party's has said it will create a "tougher statutory register of lobbyists" if it win the general election, in a manifesto which also pledges support for the BBC and local media, and for a "healthy plurality of media ownership".

Labour manifesto promises toughened lobbying regulation, support for BBC and new measures for media plurality

The party's manifesto, entitled 'For the many not the few', was launched this morning.

A draft of it had already been leaked last week.

The measure most directly affecting the PR industry, in particular its public affairs practitioners, says: "We will safeguard our democracy by repealing the Lobbying Act, which has gagged charities, and introduce a tougher statutory register of lobbyists."

This wording is the same as in last week's leaked version. Mark Glover, chair of public affairs body the APPC and a former Labour councillor, reiterated his view that the current statutory register "is not fit for purpose" because it excludes all in-house practitioners.

"We wholeheartedly welcome any moves by political parties to widen the scope of registrants to include all professional lobbyists," he said. However, he cautioned that with registers also existing in the EU, Republic of Ireland and an embryonic Holyrood register, it was important that the different bodies "work together to develop reporting requirements that limit the bureaucratic onus on registrants and make lobbying compliance something that is effective without being unduly burdensome".

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014, which established the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists, also created tighter regulations on corporate and charitable spending on campaigning in the run-up to election.

This has been seen as an attempt to silence charities, and has also been criticised as unclear.

Simon Francis, who co-chairs the PRCA charity group and launched agency Campaign Collective last year, said: "We welcome any moves by parties to safeguard freedom of speech for charities and campaigners.

"The Hodgson Review [of the 2014 Act] and Harries Commission both reported widespread problems with the scale and scope of the current Lobbying Act and all parties should look carefully at how they can safeguard our democracy in their manifestoes."

Media measures

The manifesto's section on the media, meanwhile, says that the BBC "is a national asset which we should all be proud of". "Unlike the Conservatives, Labour will always support it and uphold its independence. We will ensure the BBC and public service broadcasting has a healthy future," it says.

It also says the party intends to "implement the recommendations of part one of the Leveson Inquiry and commence part two, which will look into the corporate governance failures that allowed the hacking scandal to occur". The measures in part one include the creation of a new press regulator. The Government consulted on this late last year, but has yet to release it summary of consultation responses.

In addition to promosing a "review [into] local media and into the ownership of national media to ensure plurality", it says: "To protect democracy and media freedom, we will take steps to ensure that Ofcom is better able to safeguard a healthy plurality of media ownership and to put in place clearer rules on who is fit and proper to own or run TV and radio stations."

Read next: Was the Labour manifesto leak an act of strategic comms genius?

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