Christian Aid welcomes Lords vote on Lobbying Bill

Christian Aid welcomes Lords vote on Lobbying Bill

By agency reporter
16 Jan 2014

Yesterday's House of Lords vote to overturn one of the major problems in the Lobbying Bill is hugely important but further improvements remain vital, says Christian Aid.

The UK-based churches' global development agency is one of a range of faith and belief groups seeking substantial reform of the legislation.

Barry Johnston, Christian Aid's Senior UK Political Adviser, commented on the 15 January debate: "One of the key problems with the Government's approach has been overturned by the House of Lords tonight, in a significant show that they are not happy with the Bill.

"There are a number of problems that remain and we hope that the Government will recognise this and not face further defeats."

During their debate on part of the Bill which would have required organisations to include staff costs in calculations of what they spend on campaigns during election years, the Lords rejected the Government's proposal by 43 votes.

Instead, they backed an amendment by Lord Harries, former Bishop of Oxford and Chair of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, to limit staff costs counting towards controlled expenditure. The Commission is a diverse group of charities and other organisations which includes Christian Aid, Mumsnet, Ekklesia, the Countryside Alliance and the National Secular Society.

Mr Johnston added: "We are delighted by the Lords decision on what was a major remaining problem with the Bill and we hope that they will correct the deep flaws still needing attention."

The Commission has warned that even after today’s changes, the Lobbying Bill could still limit charities and campaigning organisations from speaking out ahead of elections on some of the most important issues facing the country and the planet.

Among the most serious remaining problems are draconian limits on what organisations can spend on campaigning in the run up to elections, restrictions on their ability to work in coalitions and an outdated definition of 'supporters' of non-governmental organisations.

After it has received final approval from the House of Lords, the Bill will still have to be approved by the House of Commons before it becomes law.

Mr Johnston said: "It is vital that when it returns to the Commons, MPs retain the vital improvements made by the Lords."

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

[Ekk/3]

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