Briefing: Last minute pressure on government over Lobbying Bill
Stung by the overwhelming criticism of its chaotic and deeply flawed Lobbying Bill, the government is continuing to manoeuvre hard to get it through without major changes at the last minute - but NGOs from across the political spectrum are also working late into the night to encourage MPs to support sensible and much-needed changes, and Ministers have not made up their minds on some crucial issues.
Today (21 January 2014) and tomorrow (22 January) we are into horse-trading between the Lords and the Commons. Peers start debating about 2.20pm today in the Third Reading. Backbench Lib Dems, who could be very important to the outcome, are having an MP's meeting to discuss the issue tonight.
MPs at Prime Minister's Question Time are asking: "Will the Prime Minister accept all the changes to Part 2 the Lobbying Bill made in the House of Lords following the unprecedentedly widespread concern of charities and campaigning groups?"
The Third Reading, which along with the Commons session tomorrow was deliberately moved forward to make it difficult for NGOs and others to intervene, is meant to be about tidying up the Bill. But because it is still such a mess, and because the government used Committee stage as 'a listening exercise' there are still matters of substance to be settled. Lord Harries has tabled new amendments on constituency regulation (amendments 11 and 12). If Lib Dems as well as crossbenchers respond, these stand a chance.
Ministers tabled new amendments yesterday, including a new 'Henry VIII clause' giving them powers to change the law without introducing new primary legislation. This was done in such a way as to ensure there was no time to table a counter amendment for the Third Reading. There will be an attempt to do that in the House of Commons tomorrow, 22 January 2014.
Tomorrow the Commons will consider the changes to the Bill agreed in the Lords. NGOs want to keep the staff costs victory, and defend constituency regulation changes if they can be secured in the Lords. However, as a secondary priority, it will be important to amend the Henry VIII clause. There will also be discussions with MPs between the Lords and Commons sessions about whether other possible amendments to help shape the debate, even if they are unlikely to be passed.
There will be a small NGO meeting with Andrew Lansley this afternoon to discuss concerns with him and to make clear to the government why it should not overturn the gains in the Lords.
NGOs and others will be reconsidering their position later in the week, depending on the outcome in the Lords today and the Commons tomorrow. As it stands, this Bill is still an unacceptable shackle on democracy.
Two Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement (CCSDE) briefings are attached for those who are still able to talk to their MPs.
* Briefing on why MPs should not overturn changes made in the House of Lords (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/commons-briefing.pdf
* Briefing on what is wrong with the Henry VIII clause (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/henry_viii_clause_briefing.pdf
* More from Ekklesia on the Lobbying Bill: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/lobbyingbill
Ekklesia is an active supporter of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement (http://civilsocietycommission.info).
Select the newsletter(s) to which you want to subscribe or unsubscribe.