Lobbying bill - NCVO statement

Following the government's agreement to abandon its plan to change what constitutes non-party campaigning, Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said:

'The government’s commitment to abandon the change to the test of what constitutes non-party campaigning is a significant step in the right direction. When the new wording is published we will take legal advice and also urgently seek the view of the Electoral Commission, to ensure the revised test meets the spirit and the letter of policy intent set out by government.

'The revised test should ensure that for charities operating within charity law, their activities should not be subject to registration with the Electoral Commission and therefore the regulation outlined in part two of the Bill.

'We remain concerned that other voluntary organisations in civil society may still be subject to ambiguous and damaging legislation. NCVO believes in a society where freedom of speech, the freedom to associate and the right to free and fair elections are all similarly inviolable.

'The proposed definition of controlled expenditure remains neither clear nor workable for non-charitable voluntary organisations. We remain similarly concerned that the expenditure thresholds proposed in the new bill will be damaging, particularly for small community groups that are not charities. These must be restored at current levels. The question of how to sensibly regulate groups working in coalition remains to be addressed.

'If a revised test of what constitutes non-party campaigning by charities, together with a clear definition of controlled expenditure and unchanged expenditure thresholds, cannot be achieved, we will continue to argue for the withdrawal of part two of the bill.

'We will continue to work with the broad range of organisations expressing concerns, as well as with government and with the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, to ensure we get legislation that recognises and does not undermine the valuable role undertaken by charities and community groups.'

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