The leading political reform group Unlock Democracy has joined over 100 charities and NGOs, including Ekklesia, in calling for substantial reform to the government's controversial Lobbying Bill.
The Bill threatens to silence civic groups and trade unions from speaking out on political issues a year before an election, while doing almost nothing to tackle serious abuses of corporate lobbying.
Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy, commented: “In November, we welcomed the decision to pause Part 2 of the Lobbying Bill, which gave the government five weeks to reconsider.
"Now they must do what is needed to fix it. Big changes are needed to ensure that grassroots campaigns, which are essential for a healthy democracy, can continue in the run-up to the 2015 election without fear of breaking the rules.
"The government’s response will reveal whether they have spent these five weeks listening, or just going through the motions of consultation.
The Civil Society Commission’s report has produced six clear tests by which to judge regulation of non-party campaigning. Regulation should be transparent; proportionate; evidence-based; clear; practical; and enforceable. We call on the government to amend the Bill so that it will meet these tests,” said Ms Runswick.
Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, who chairs the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement (CCSDE), of which both Unlock Democracy and Ekklesia are among the supporters, has now tabled amendments (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19657) in line with recommendations in the Commission's report.
These will be considered for debate at Committee Stage in Parliament on Monday 16 and Wednesday 18 December 2013. The Report Stage is now confirmed for 13 and 15 January 2014.
* The Harries amendments are attached in draft form (Word document): http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/ccsde__proposed_amendments.doc
* The second CCSDE report, Consultation and recommendations on Part Two of the Lobbying Bill, on Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19633
* Background on the Lobbying Bill from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/lobbyingbill
* Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement: http://www.civilsocietycommission.info
Unlock Democracy: http://unlockdemocracy.org.uk
* Faith groups accuse Lobbying Bill of 'silencing the poor': http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19644
* Press release: Lobbying Bill unjust and undemocratic, says Christian think-tank: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19636