Democracy advocates condemn government's gagging bill

By staff writers
October 12, 2013

Unlock Democracy has condemned the lack of scrutiny of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union administration Bill.

Many have branded it a "gagging bill", arguing that it will do little to tackle corporate abuse and much to hinder democratic debate.

Despite calls from MPs, charities, faith groups and campaigners for the government to stop and rethink these proposals, the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration bill passed its House of Commons stages this past week.

Alexandra Runswick, director of Unlock Democracy, commented: "Charities, voluntary organisations, professional lobbyists, trade unions, the official opposition and the political and constitutional reform select committee all agree that this bill should not proceed in its current form.

"It is one of the worst drafted pieces of legislation ever to leave Whitehall. While we will work with members of the House of Lords to improve it, the fact remains that this bill shows the House of Commons at its worst.

"These proposals were not consulted on, there has been no pre-legislative scrutiny and the Electoral Commission has warned that they are unenforceable but the government has carried on regardless.

"Unlock Democracy is one of more than 40 organisations supporting the launch of the Commission for Civil Society and Democracy which is undertaking some very rapid consultation of civil society policy experts and parliamentarians ahead of the Lords stage of the Bill. This consultation should have been undertaken by government before the bill was published.

"As it stands these proposals risk making lobbying in the UK less transparent and creating the Dangerous Dogs Act of electoral law. It is time the government faced up to the fact that this bill is indefensible in its current form, withdraw it, and begin a consultation process to draft a comprehensive lobbying register which they promised in their coalition agreement,” Ms Strudwick concluded.

Unlock Democracy is a leading British campaign for democratic reform.

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