The Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement (www.civilsocietycommission.info) has published its second report on Part Two of the Transparency in Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill 2012-13 (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/lobbyingbill) on 10 December 2013. It follows extensive consultations in England, Scotland and Wales.
The work of the Commission, chaired by Lord Harries, the former Anglican Bishop of Oxford, is supported by a diverse coalition of over 100 prominent charities, campaign groups, academics, think tanks and online networks, including Ekklesia.
The Government accepted the central recommendation of the Commission’s first report (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19330) to pause the Bill pending further consultation and consideration, though for only nearly six weeks rather than the three months the report concluded was needed.
The second CCSDE report contains a package of recommendations that, taken together, would limit the impact of the legislation on legitimate civil society campaigning ahead of elections.
In particular it:
i) Establishes six tests for good regulation - criteria upon which any proposals for the regulation of non-party campaigning ahead of elections should be judged.
ii) Makes a set of interconnected recommendations that will go some way to reducing the risk to democratic engagement threatened by the Lobbying Bill and flaws in the PPERA (Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000) legislation.
iii) Proposes a full and evidence-based review of the legislation governing non-party campaigning, which should take place as a matter of urgency after the 2015 General Election.
iv) Sets out a series of case studies of non-party campaigning ahead of elections and the likely impact of both Lobbying Bill proposals and the Commission’s proposals on the campaigns.
Ekklesia also wishes to see very substantial change to Part Three of the Bill, concerning the regulation of trade unions - and preferably the removal of Parts Two and Three, together with the strengthening of Part 1 on corporate lobbying.
* Read the full CCSDE report here (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document, 64 pages, 545kb): http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/lobbying_bill_report_2.pdf