Crunch day for Lobbying Bill in the Lords

The Lobbying Bill returns to the House of Lords today, Tuesday 28 January 2014, and the Commons shorty afterwards, as the 'ping pong' process follows the Commons decision to overturn key Lords amendments - ones with the overwhelming backing of charities, NGOs, voluntary organisations, civil society campaign groups, unions, and hundreds of thousands of members of the public who have been pressing parliamentarians on the issue.

There is serious concern about a Bill which will leave big corporate lobbyists virtually untouched, while shackling key voices in civil society and therefore threatening free speech and democratic accountability.

The last we heard, former Bishop of Oxford Lord Harries will be re-tabling the amendment on staff costs and ask peers to 'insist' on it - that is, vote for it again even though the Commons rejected it.

He will also table a slightly changed version of the constituency regulation amendment. This will be a further compromise in order to increase the chances of a positive outcome. The amendment would clarify that only activity that is truly relating to an election in the constituency would fall under the constituency spending cap. It would not, however, narrow the range of regulated activities as the previous amendment did.

Supporters of change are encouraged to write to cross-benchers they know, together with peers who voted for amendments last time, to ask them to continue to press the government to listen and change.

A new 'Mythbuster' document has been produced by the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement to counter some of the inaccuracies in minister's statements in the Commons (http://civilsocietycommission.info/mythbuster/).

New case studies (http://civilsocietycommission.info/case-studies/) will also show how NGOs will be affected by the Lobbying Bill -- even with the changes made so far.

* Full-page adverts asking peers and MPs to vote to reform the Lobbying Bill will be appearing in national newspapers on Tuesday 28 January.

* The full eight-page briefing on the latest Lobbying Bill amendments proposed by Lord Harries, and why peers and MPs should support them: http://civilsocietycommission.info/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Why-peers-...

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

* Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement (CCSDE): http://civilsocietycommission.info

Ekklesia is an active supporter of the CCSDE.

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