Lobbying bill amendments do not go far enough. Joint statement from NCVO and ACEVO

Responding to the publication of the government’s amendments, Sir Stuart Etherington, CEO of NCVO said:

"The government’s commitment to address the legitimate concerns of many charities and other voluntary organisations remains welcome, however, the proposed amendments do not go far enough.

The assurances given by ministers on the floor of the house to ensure that charities will still be able to support specific policies that might also be advocated by political parties have not been met.

"Legal advice provided to NCVO indicates that the proposed amendments put forward by the government will mean that much campaigning activity by charities and other voluntary groups will still be covered by this excessively bureaucratic and burdensome regime.

"The amendments leave a great deal of uncertainty and ambiguity. In short, many organisations including small community groups, will be required to consult the Electoral Commission before undertaking campaigning activity in an election period in order to ensure they are not falling foul of the new regulations."

Sir Stephen Bubb, CEO of ACEVO said:

"The government is clearly keen to show it is listening to civil society, but these amendments don't prevent the Bill curbing freedom of speech around elections.

The Bill greatly increases bureaucracy for civil society groups in the year before an election, by halving the spending thresholds above which organisations have to register with the Electoral Commission. It also drastically restricts civil society's spending on public campaigns in election years.

The public wants legislation that makes politics and corporate lobbying more transparent. Instead this Bill makes almost no change to lobbying rules while punishing civil society for a loss of trust in politics that is not its fault.

"Publishing these amendments today leaves two working days for civil society to consider them before they are debated in the Commons. This rushed timeframe is an object lesson in poor law-making, and will only necessitate further damage-limitating amendments after the next debates."

Notes to editors

With over 10,000 members, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) is the largest umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in England. ACEVO is the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, the leading voice for chief executives in the third sector.

Sir Stuart Etherington, CEO of NCVO, set out his expectations for amendments to the bill in a letter to Andrew Lansley last week - http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/chloe-stables/NCVO-letter-to-Andrew-Lansley-Sept2013-2.pdf

Having completed committee stage, the bill returns to the Commons on Tuesday 8 and Wednesday 9 October for third reading and report stage.

Spokespeople are available for interview. Please contact Chloe Stables at NCVO on 07507 558 597 or Faye Rimdap at Acevo on 07825 894 716.

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