Thirteen faith-based organisations have written to David Cameron and Nick Clegg to express their fear that the Lobbying Bill will "curtail our ability to express deeply-held beliefs in the political arena"
The letter states that even after the Government’s latest amendment to the Bill, the signatories believe there is a "very real risk that non-biased political activity will be captured by the…Act."
They have therefore asked that the Government delay the Bill to allow for better consultation. The signatories of the letter include World Jewish Relief, Quakers in Britain, Islamic Relief and Christian Aid.
The text of the letter is as follows:
Dear Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister,
Open Letter: the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill
We are writing to you regarding the potential impact of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill on religious groups and faith-based organisations. We are concerned that Part II of this Bill, even with the Government amendment, may curtail our ability to express deeply-held beliefs in the political arena.
We represent a number of different religious groups and faith-based organisations, supporting a wide and diverse range of concerns. While we differ on many specific issues, we unanimously recognise the value of open and honest discussion. Our beliefs and our practices often call for us to engage in debate. The work we carry out to raise awareness of issues important to our communities arises from our beliefs and is a manifestation of our faith.
Whilst we support the broad aims of greater clarity and transparency and do not wish to see large amounts of money or opaque lobbying practices distorting British politics, we fear that the Bill may lead to unintended consequences. Following legal advice and a statement from the Electoral Commission, we remain concerned that despite the Government’s proposed amendments we still do not have the necessary legal certainty that Part II of this Bill could not be applied to a wide range of legitimate campaigns, despite such activities being intended to be party politically neutral.
We are concerned that this Bill does not adequately safeguard the activities of religious organisations and that there is a very real risk that non-biased political activity will be captured by the resultant Act.
We remain deeply concerned at the short timescale of this Bill and consider that time spent now will prevent future misinterpretation and save time in the long term. We ask you to delay the passage of this Bill to allow for consultation on these complex constitutional issues.
Paul Anticoni: CEO, World Jewish Relief
Isabel Carter Chair: Operation Noah
Niall Cooper:National Co-ordinator, Church Action on Poverty
Lt. Colonel Marion Drew: Secretary for Communications, The Salvation Army UK and Ireland
The Rev Sally Foster-Fulton: Convener, Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland
The Rev Ruth Gee: President of the Methodist Conference
Dr Dave Landrum: Director of Advocacy, Evangelical Alliance
Jehangir Malik: UK Director, Islamic Relief
Loretta Minghella: Director, Christian Aid
Farooq Murad: Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
Paul Parker: Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
Rabbi Sybil Sheridan: Chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis, UK
Neil Thorns: Director of Advocacy, CAFOD