UK-based development agency Christian Aid’s Senior UK Political Adviser, Barry Johnston, says further important changes are still needed to the government's controversial Lobbying Bill.
He was commenting on the Government’s latest proposed amendments to the Bill, which were sent to members of the House of Lords on 8 January 2013 ahead of their Report Stage debate on the Bill next week.
Mr Johnston said: "It is refreshing to see the Government finally listening - and these changes are significant. However, the Bill still contains several totally disproportionate and unworkable provisions that must be changed.
"Having come this far in the right direction, the Government shouldn’t stumble at the final hurdle. Common sense should prevail."
Mr Johnston added that the worst remaining flaws in Part 2 of the Bill, which seeks to regulate campaign spending by organisations which are not political parties, relate to staff costs, Parliamentary constituencies and coalition working.
"In all three cases, the Bill would introduce provisions that are totally inoperable, which will leave campaigners and regulators themselves wondering what on earth the law actually means. This will waste precious time and money", he warned.
"Peers have already voiced widespread opposition to these regulations and we will continue campaigning with them to ensure that the final Bill is one that does not neuter vibrant public debate in the run up to the election."
Meanwhile, Mark Goldring, Oxfam Chief Executive, said: "We're pleased ministers have stepped back from the brink and promised to significantly reduce the Bill's chilling effect on democracy.
"But while [these] changes address many of our fears, unworkable limits on constituency spending and the requirement to account for staff costs will still unduly restrict the ability of charities and others to speak out on issues of legitimate concern."
The Lobbying Bill is now close to becoming law, having been through the House of Commons and also through most of its stages in the House of Lords.
Belief-based organisations supporting a petition to back former Bishop of Oxford Lord Harries' amendments to the Lobbying Bill, in addition to Christian Aid, include so far include CAFOD, Ekklesia, Islamic Relief UK, Micah International, Muslim Council of Britain, National Secular Society, British Humanist Association, Progressio, Quakers in Britain, Salvation Army and Tearfund.
* More on the Lobbying Bill from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/lobbyingbill
* Please support this urgent petition to back Lord Harries / CCSDE amendments to Lobbyng Bill on 15 January: http://civilsocietycommission.info/petition/
petition against a union data grab through the Lobbying Bill here: http://action.goingtowork.org.uk/page/s/lobbying-bill-my-union-membershi...
* Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement: http://civilsocietycommission.info