The Government's lobbying bill: follow-up - Political and Constitutional Reform Contents


Summary

We are returning to the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill to update Members on the changes that have been made during its passage and to aid them in their scrutiny of the Lords amendments to the Bill. Third Reading in the House of Lords took place on 21 January 2014 and the House of Commons will consider Lords amendments the next day, on 22 January. The haste with which Lords amendments are returning to the Commons is yet another example of the way in which this Bill has been rushed through Parliament. The timetable that the Government has imposed for this Bill indicates a contempt for Parliament and a lack of belief in the value of parliamentary scrutiny.

Much of the attention in recent months has been on Part 2 of the Bill, on third party campaigning. Part 2 is certainly problematic, but we wish to emphasise that we continue to have serious concerns about the very narrow scope of Part 1, on lobbying. Without the changes that we recommended in our original report to broaden the register, Part 1 of the Bill will do little to increase transparency about who is lobbying whom and for what purpose.

Significant changes have been made to the Bill during its passage through Parliament. It is far from perfect, but it is undoubtedly better than it was, thanks to the efforts of parliamentarians, Committees of both Houses, the Electoral Commission, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement and many others. We agree with many of the amendments that have been made in the House of Lords. In some instances, we think amendments to these amendments are necessary. In particular, in Part 1 we would like to see the Bill amended to include Senior Civil Servants within the list of people with whom contact counts as lobbying. In Part 2, we would like the maximum expenditure limits for third party campaigning to be restored to their current levels in England, Scotland and Wales. We are content with the proposed increase in the limit for Northern Ireland. We would also like the reporting and accounting requirements in Part 2 of the Bill to be made less bureaucratic. We will be tabling amendments to this effect and urge Members to support them. They are collected together in Annex A. We support the non-Government amendments that were made during Report Stage in the House of Lords: to include special advisers within the scope of Part 1 of the Bill, and to exclude certain background staffing costs from Part 2 of the Bill. We also support the amendment, tabled by Lord Harries and others, which was made at Third Reading in the Lords, to make the constituency limits more enforceable.

Please note that amendments are referred to in this report by the number they were given at Report Stage in the House of Lords. This is because at the time of publication the numbering of the Lords amendments to be considered by the House of Commons has not yet been finalised. References to the Bill are to the Bill as introduced into the House of Lords (HL Bill 50).



 
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Prepared 24 January 2014