After a whirlwind six months of rushed and poorly drafted legislation which ended in a round of ping pong between the Lords and Commons, the Lobbying Bill is set to become law.
This is a huge blow for democracy, for charities and for campaigners. We have been left with a Lobbying Bill that lets professional lobbyists off the hook but forces people campaigning to save their local hospital to jump through bureaucratic hoops.
On Wednesday, the House of Lords narrowly voted to reject the amendments we had been pushing to fix the Bill. The amendment on constituency regulation was defeated by 18 votes: 231 to 249. The amendment on staffing costs fell on a tied vote - 245-245! The convention in the House of Lords is that is a vote on a amendment is ties then the amendment cannot be added to the bill.
Still, we did force the government to offer concessions in the face of overwhelming opposition. The registration threshold for non-party organisations has been doubled from the government’s original proposals, meaning the smallest campaign groups will escape much of the new bureaucracy. Massive cuts to election spending limits in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been scaled back, letting campaigners keep fighting for good causes across the UK. Many costs which are essential to campaigns were also exempted from any limits.
What next for democracy?
Whatever your opinion on the Lobbying Bill, we can all agree that this is not how law should be made; it underlines why we must keep fighting on other fronts for democratic reform. As Unlock Democracy shifts its focus towards our other campaigns, we want you to stay involved. In the run up to the General Election in 2015, Unlock Democracy will be asking how politics should really work and how citizens can have a real say in shaping laws and influencing our democracy.
We may not have won the votes on Wednesday but the campaign has produced some valuable results. The Civil Society Commission brought together more than 160 campaign groups to fight the Bill, including deadly enemies like the Countryside Alliance and the League Against Cruel Sports!
Unlock Democracy could not continue its work without your support and engagement. Whether you’ve written to your MP, signed a petition, donated or helped us in other ways, thank you for all of your support in the campaign against the “Gagging Law”.
written by: Matt Dolman