Electoral Commission briefing on Lobbying Bill

By staff writers
November 5, 2013

The Electoral Commission which was not consulted by the government before it developed its controversial Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, which is in Committee stage in the House of Lords. The EC sent a briefing to peers yesterday (4 November 2013), backing a pause. It reads as follows:

Timing of legislation and implications for the Electoral Commission

"Following the publication in late October of a report on the Bill by the Commission for Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, which recommends a period of consultation before the Bill makes further progress, we have been asked for our views of the impact such a delay in the Bill’s progress could have.

"We have previously agreed with the views put forward by bodies such as the Lords Constitution Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee that Part 2 of the Bill would have benefitted from further scrutiny before it was introduced. However, given the complexities of the regulatory regime around third party campaigning, we have also been clear that any changes to the regime should be in place in good time before the beginning of the regulated period for the 2015 UK Parliamentary general election. The Bill currently provides for that regulated period to begin on 23 May 2014, the day after the 2014 European Parliament elections.

"Should Parliament decide that a period of consultation is desirable before the Bill makes further progress, we would recommend that the start of the regulated period for the 2015 general election be delayed by an appropriate period. Unless this is done, we would be unlikely to be able to put in place appropriate guidance for campaigners before the start of the regulated period, or to prepare to implement an effective enforcement regime. Similarly, campaigners need to have time to understand and prepare to comply with the regime before it comes into effect."

We understand that the Government approached Lord Ramsbotham to withdraw his pause motion if Government agreed to pause Part 2 only – through it being debated on days 3 and 4 of Committee stage instead of days 2 and 3. He declined to do so.

A compromise oon the threshold for registering non-party groups like charities and think tanks has also been offered, but does not go nearly far enough because here are so many other things wrong with this 'gagging' Bill: definition, constituency limits, regulatory burden, coalition working, etc.

Further updates to follow.

* Read the full CCSDE report here: 'Non-party campaigning ahead of elections' - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19330

* Ekklesia statement: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19331

* More on the Bill from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/lobbyingbill

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