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House of Lords

Tuesday, 22 October 2013.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds.

Introduction: Lord Purvis of Tweed

2.40 pm

Jeremy Purvis, Esquire, having been created Baron Purvis of Tweed, of East March in the Scottish Borders, was introduced and made the solemn affirmation, supported by Lord Steel of Aikwood and Lord Wallace of Tankerness, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Introduction: Baroness Hodgson of Abinger

2.44 pm

Fiona Ferelith Lady Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, CBE, wife of Robin Granville Baron Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, CBE, having been created Baroness Hodgson of Abinger, of Abinger in the County of Surrey, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Baroness Seccombe and Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Foreign Languages: European Institutions


2.50 pm

Asked by Lord Harrison

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to encourage the study of modern foreign languages to maximise the United Kingdom’s influence in the European institutions.

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): My Lords, the Government recognise that a lack of modern language skills is a barrier to anyone who wishes to work for the EU institutions. We are addressing this at two critical points, by encouraging school pupils to study languages and providing intensive, targeted training for those applying for an EU career. We have also prioritised higher education funding for modern language courses to ensure the continued availability of language study in higher education institutions.

Lord Harrison (Lab): My Lords, given the British brain drain from Brussels in European Union institutions, which has seen a drop of some 24% of British people working within the European Commission, and given that no fewer than two out of three jobs notionally available to the United Kingdom are left idle by this Government or filled by others, what more can be

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done on the language front? Will the Minister please study the report of the British Academy, and can she, within her own party, douse the Tea Party Tories, whose constant Europhobia inhibits young people, diplomats and British people from taking the opportunities to be found within the single European market and the wider European Union?

Baroness Warsi: The noble Lord makes the important point that the number of Brits in the European Union institutions is low. It is right that it has been falling over a number of years, from long before 2010—and I am sure that the noble Lord would accept that. The UK represents 12% of the EU population but we have only about 5% of EU staff. Not having a second or a third language, which was also required for some of these jobs, has been the largest barrier. We are putting in place a number of things. I hope that the noble Lord will join me in congratulating my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary on reopening the language school at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in September this year, which was sadly closed in 2007. I am sure that he will also join me in congratulating the Secretary of State for Education on putting an emphasis on languages in schools and making them one of the performance indicators for the EBacc.

Baroness Coussins (CB): Is the Minister aware that only 2.6% of the total of last year’s applicants to the European Civil Service were from the UK? Does the Minister agree that our Civil Service recruitment process should collect information on the language skills of new recruits and that an audit should be carried out across the whole of the current Civil Service to establish the extent of the language skills that we do or do not have? If she agrees that that might help to target the individuals best placed to boost our numbers in Europe, will she see that it gets done?

Baroness Warsi: There are a number of reasons why we have problems in relation to that kind of recruitment. One is availability; graduates here are just not as aware, as they are in other European countries, that there are these great opportunities in the EU institutions. Therefore, we have spent a huge amount of resource and energy in 2011 and 2012 in having a road show at graduate fairs to encourage people to apply for these jobs. That has included ministerial involvement. We are investing in language schools, as I have said, and we have also set up an EU staffing unit, which specifically brings together civil servants from across Whitehall, not just the FCO—the FCO hosts this—who can be trained to fit into these institutions. When people get beyond the first stage, we provide some intensive training to get them through to the second stage.

Lord Brittan of Spennithorne (Con): Does my noble friend agree that it would be helpful if, in the course of speeches made by Ministers on European issues, the availability of such positions in the European Commission and other institutions was mentioned, as a ministerial reference would carry much more weight than just making it available on paper?

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Baroness Warsi: I will certainly make sure that we try to incorporate the opportunities which exist for civil servants in the European Union institutions as part of the reform of the European Union because the more Brits that we have fighting for British interests within the European Union, the better it is for the country as a whole.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): Does not the Minister think that this will be an increasing problem, particularly with the growth of free schools, approved by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, where staff do not need any qualifications and we cannot be guaranteed that they are proficient in English, let alone any other language?

Baroness Warsi: I am not sure that I can answer education questions as well. However, what I can say from this Dispatch Box is that I am a huge supporter of free schools and the opportunities that they present to some of the most marginalised. I can give examples of communities that I work incredibly with where children who have been let down by much of what was available to them in the education system previously are now being offered the best education—the kind of education which some parents can pay for but which is now being offered to these children and is paid for by the state.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, my noble friend may be pleased to hear that my 16 year-old daughter is being taught German by a teacher who is not a qualified teacher but is a German national and mother-tongue speaker. The emphasis must be on having a good teacher rather than on whether the teacher has formal qualifications. My daughter is on course to get a very fine grade indeed. As regards the re-established language school that my noble friend mentioned, what level of interest has there been from across Whitehall departments in taking up the opportunity offered by that language school?

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, 80 languages, 70,000 hours of training and 1,000 full and part-time students—that is the language school.

Lord Liddle (Lab): Does the noble Baroness agree that we face an extremely serious situation in relation to British influence in the European Union given that the number of British staff working there has declined by a quarter in the past seven years? Are the Government serious about doing something about that as I see no mention of it in the Foreign Office report or in its statement of priorities yet it should be a top national priority? Are they just sleepwalking out of the European Union?

Baroness Warsi: I think the noble Lord will take great comfort from the fact that since 2010 the number of British applicants has increased by 50%.

Lord Tebbit (Con): My Lords, did I hear my noble friend say that British civil servants going to the Commission lobby for British interests? Surely, that is

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contrary to Community law. Surely, my noble friend would agree that those who serve the Commission are required to serve its interests even after they are retired as a condition of continuing to get their pension.

Baroness Warsi: Those who serve the Commission, whatever their nationality, bring to the table their expertise and their experience from within the British Civil Service. Any civil servants who bring their experience of the British Civil Service to European institutions bring something additional and special which is good for the British Isles.

Millennium Development Goals


2.59 pm

Tabled by Lord Chidgey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what new millennium development goals they would prefer to see introduced post-2015.

Lord Dholakia (LD): My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Chidgey, and at his request, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

Baroness Northover (LD): My Lords, the MDGs have provided an important framework in helping to reduce poverty, but there is still much more to do. The 12 successor goals recommended by the high-level panel offer practical targets which tackle the root causes as well as the symptoms of poverty. We are particularly pleased to see a proposed stand-alone goal focused on women and girls.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and look forward to the debate on this matter tomorrow. Does my noble friend accept that poverty reduction must be the top priority for the development agenda as 70% of people who were within the millennium development goals have not benefited from the programme, almost all of them women? What indicators does my noble friend have in mind to measure over time where the discrepancies that discriminate against so many women and girls appear in the development agenda?

Baroness Northover: My noble friend is absolutely right. As he will know, the new goals will focus on eradicating extreme poverty within a generation. Central to this, as we all recognise, is reaching women and girls, many of whom were left behind by the MDGs. That is why we are very pleased that there is a proposed stand-alone gender goal and also that there is a lot of emphasis on disaggregating data—only if you have good data can you move things forwards.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Lab): My Lords, will the Minister clarify where things stand on the leave-no-one-behind principle included in the 2015 framework which, of course, focuses on social justice

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and equity? Is the Minister aware that when asked at a press conference in Liberia whether the UK would prioritise inequality over economic growth the Prime Minister replied no, that economic growth was the priority? Surely we can agree that progress achieved will not be sustained unless there is a strong focus on equity within and between countries.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, the noble Baroness will, of course, know the range of goals. Taken together they include all the areas the noble Baroness is talking about. Obviously we need economic growth to try to pull people out of poverty but, as she also knows, leaving no one behind is included there. The aim of the new MDGs is to eradicate extreme poverty. One will not do that without addressing both social justice and economic growth.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Con): My Lords, I welcome the focus on the post-2015 agenda, but will my noble friend agree that finishing the job of the existing MDGs is also crucial? Will she also inform the House what progress she hopes will be made in the next two years?

Baroness Northover: My noble friend is right and it is important to take forward the current MDGs. However, one of the most important things now is to make sure that the proposed new MDGs, or something very similar to them, are adopted in 2015 so that the progress made in the past 13 years is built on. As noble Lords know, DfID is committed to 0.7% of GNI going to aid. For example, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has just announced £1 billion going towards the Global Fund. All this will help to deliver the original MDGs.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: My Lords, will the Minister press for tax justice to be a distinctive international goal in ensuring that major corporations pay appropriate taxes and in channelling taxes to the countries where profits are actually made?

Baroness Northover: The right reverend Prelate is right to highlight that and he will know that the UK Government are emphasising the importance of tax being collected appropriately within the developing countries. This will be transformative. Corporate transparency is one of the aspects required and he will know that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for BIS, Vince Cable, is working very hard on that. BIS has just consulted and is considering responses, and DfID is trying to ensure that tax regimes in the developing countries are strengthened and built on.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab): My Lords, evidence shows that investing in a child’s earliest years makes the biggest difference to their lives and to the country’s social and economic fortune. Will the Minister support calls to put early childhood development at the heart of the new post-2015 development framework?

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Baroness Northover: Again, if the noble Lord looks at the proposed new MDGs, he will see that that kind of approach can be assumed to be there. There is new emphasis on, for example, good nutrition, which is so important in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, as well as education—not just primary education but covering a wider scope. Therefore, if the noble Lord looks down the list, he will see that concern for young children is built into a number of the goals.

The Earl of Sandwich (CB): The noble Baroness mentioned our progress towards 0.7% of GDP, but does she agree that our European neighbours are getting nowhere near that target? What are the Government doing to encourage them?

Baroness Northover: As the noble Earl knows, the northern European countries are stronger in that regard than the southern and eastern ones. However, there has been progress among some of the new EU countries, and that is encouraging. We do, and will, continue to argue this case to make sure that that is a high priority.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting


3.05 pm

Asked by Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their priorities for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo on 15 to 17 November.

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): My Lords, our priorities for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM, include discussions on the post-2015 global development framework and enhancing Commonwealth values. CHOGM also provides an opportunity to raise further international awareness of the need to end sexual violence in conflict. UK Ministers will also engage with their Commonwealth counterparts and pursue relevant bilateral issues with Sri Lanka, including reconciliation, human rights and consular concerns.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab): My Lords, the Commonwealth charter, agreed by all member states in the Commonwealth last December, states quite clearly that participating in free and fair elections is an inalienable right of the populations of every country in the Commonwealth today. Despite that, the election held in the Maldives on 7 September has now twice been delayed. First, its second round was delayed and, subsequently, a rerun ballot was cancelled this weekend following police intervention. As a result of that, it is likely that the Maldives will now not even be represented in Colombo because they will not have a head of state when the CHOGM takes place this year. The Commonwealth Secretary-General has called for all involved to take speedy action to ensure an

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outcome for this election that represents the popular will. Will the UK and the other member states of the Commonwealth assist him in trying to make that happen?

Baroness Warsi: I am always grateful for the noble Lord’s intervention in these matters; he has great expertise in relation to the Maldives. As he said, the rerun of the presidential elections has now been cancelled at short notice. The Maldivian Elections Commission announced yesterday that this will now take place on 9 November and, in the event of it going to a second round, we are still hopeful that it will be concluded by about 16 November. The Foreign Secretary released a statement outlining the importance of the democratic process and of the elections concluding in accordance with the Maldives constitution, which says that a President should be inaugurated by 11 November. We have consistently pressed for this. If that is followed, there may be a representative by 15 November, when CHOGM takes place.

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con): Does the Minister accept that, while all human rights issues are extremely important and should be raised with great vigour by our leaders when they go down to Colombo, one of the major focuses will be on the vast expansion of Commonwealth trade and investment organised by the Commonwealth Business Council and Commonwealth Business Forum in Colombo? Is she aware that the Chinese are planning to send a very large delegation—said to be 70 strong—to this conference, as are Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, demonstrating their commitment to the possible expansion of trade with the Commonwealth? Can she tell us how many delegates the UK Trade & Investment agency will be sending there?

Baroness Warsi: I am not sure what the precise nature of the final delegation will be, but I will certainly write to the noble Lord with details of what representatives of UKTI will be there. Of course, we encourage trade not just between Commonwealth countries but between Commonwealth countries and other nations, but I will write to the noble Lord with more details.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB): Does the Minister agree that one of the most distressing features of the Commonwealth is that in 41 out of the 53 countries, same-sex relationships are a criminal offence, and that in some countries, such as Uganda, they carry the possibility of life imprisonment or even, sometimes, a capital offence, if the present law gets through? Will there be any opportunity to raise this distressing situation at the conference?

Baroness Warsi: That is, of course, a matter of concern. Indeed, it was raised in a debate only last week. The Commonwealth charter says clearly that there will be opposition to all forms of discrimination, but the human rights situation in all the Commonwealth countries still leaves a lot to be desired. That is one issue. The noble Lord will be aware also that 38 Commonwealth countries retain the death penalty.

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Lord Bach (Lab): My Lords, we all agree that the Commonwealth is a vital and positive partnership between countries. However, does the Minister agree that there is growing evidence both of a severe deterioration of human rights and a move towards authoritarian government in Sri Lanka itself? Does the Minister agree that it would send a powerful and necessary message to the Government of Sri Lanka if the British Prime Minister were to follow the lead of his fellow Conservative Prime Minister in Canada and decline to attend? If she does not agree: why not?

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, the Government believe that CHOGM will, among other things, provide an opportunity to shine a light on Sri Lanka and to question it in relation to the many commitments that were given as part of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. Some recommendations from the commission have been implemented, but many more remain on the table. We will deliver an incredibly tough message to the Sri Lankan Government that they need to make concrete progress on human rights, reconciliation and political settlement, and that when we attend at CHOGM we expect to have unrestricted access to NGOs and to the media. The Government believe that the best way forward is to go there, engage, have tough conversations and shed light on the challenges still presented in Sri Lanka.

Lord Steel of Aikwood (LD): When my noble friend wound up the debate on the Commonwealth last Thursday, she made the point that such a heavyweight delegation going to Sri Lanka would have a good effect on the human rights situation there. Could she say what she had in mind, and what effect we have had so far?

Baroness Warsi: I have been looking at the programme of the Prime Minister and of the other Ministers who will be attending. It would be inappropriate at this stage for me to detail that programme and where they will visit; probably it would be in breach of some security provision. However, from what I have seen, I am confident that this will be an opportunity for us to deal with these issues incredibly robustly, to travel, see, engage and shine a spotlight. The Sri Lankan Government should be aware that it will not be just us; the world’s media will be there and questions will be asked.

Lord Wills (Lab): My Lords, if the Sri Lankan Government persist in ignoring the incredibly tough messages that the Minister says the Government are going to send them about the human rights record in Sri Lanka—as they have ignored all such representations, from the United Nations and from respected human rights organisations, for the past year or more—at what point will the Government decide that constructive engagement with this regime is not the only way forward?

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, all I can say is that at this moment in time the Government believe that constructive engagement is the right way forward.

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Royal Mail: Pricing of Shares


3.13 pm

Asked by Lord Donoughue

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether any shares in Royal Mail offered at 330p were issued to any of the banks involved in advising on the flotation price, or to any of their employees; and what are the total fees to be paid to those banks for advising on the offer pricing of the shares.

Lord Popat (Con): My Lords, no individual employee working on the transaction or investment bank division was allocated shares. Other divisions of our banking advisers, separated from the investment banking divisions by the information barriers, were allocated 13 million shares. This is standard practice. The underwriting banks will share a maximum fee of 1.2% of the IPO proceeds, or £16.9 million. That maximum includes the potential discretionary fee of £4.2 million. The actual fee will be finalised shortly. Lazard will receive £1.5 million, as the Government’s independent adviser.

Lord Donoughue (Lab): I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that this morning the share price of the Royal Mail reached a peak of 507p, which is an advance of more than 50% on the offer price? In light of that, does he agree with the comment made in the Financial Times on Saturday? It said:

“The only loser is the taxpayer, whose furniture has been flogged—but at a fraction of its market price”.

Will the Government not try to recover something for the ripped-off taxpayer by at least insisting that they do not pay those exorbitant fees to these inadequate advisers?

Lord Popat: My Lords, we were given advice on the price for the shares by a large number of institutions. We took into account a recent flotation of a similar organisation in Belgium. We also took a view on the price determined for recently quoted companies in the UK. The price range was between £2.60 and £3.30. We pitched at the higher amount of £3.30. This flotation was very successful despite the difficulties happening in America and the impending strike by the union.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, will my noble friend confirm whether any of the advisers on the share sale were the same advisers who advised the previous Government to sell our gold at the bottom of the market at a loss to the taxpayer of more than £10 billion?

Lord Popat: My Lords, I do not have that information. Our advisers were robustly looked into. Some 21 advisers made a pitch to us. Nine were selected and they advised us at a different stage of the flotation.

Lord Sugar (Lab): My Lords, I assume that the hiring of Lazard, Goldman Sachs and UBS was for their so-called expertise in understanding the correct timing and pricing of the flotation of the Royal Mail.

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Will the Minister comment on why these so-called experts sold the stock at such a low level and got it totally wrong, to such an extent that the stock rose by 33% the day after and now sits at 54% higher than the issue price? Bearing in mind that other reputable banks had come on record giving a valuation of £5 billion, why were these banks ignored? What will the noble Lord do by way of an inquiry to find out who the lucky institutions were that underwrote this bargain basement sell-off?

Lord Popat: My Lords, our key objective has been to secure value for money for the taxpayer and to develop a strong business. The taxpayer still has more than 30% of the shares and the universal service will be secured for a long time. The proposal included an indicative valuation of the company based on many instances and solely on information already in the public domain. Banks made their own assumptions of the Royal Mail’s future performance. Hence we agreed a price of £3.30.

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): Presumably those who were invited to advise on the flotation price were not required to pluck a figure out of the air but would have been instructed to arrive at their conclusion on the basis of certain criteria. Will the Minister confirm that that was the case and will he spell out those criteria to the House?

Lord Popat: My Lords, as I said, our key objective was to secure value for money and to make sure that this flotation was successful. The nine banks that we appointed set out the criteria and gave us advice as to the value of the shares that we should pitch at. One criterion was to make sure that the future of the Royal Mail continues to be strong. The most important criterion was that institutional investors were able to invest money for the future of the Royal Mail.

Lord Razzall (LD): My Lords, perhaps I may follow the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, in extending the Question. Does the Government have a view as to what steps the regulator should take regarding the irresponsible actions of the colleague of the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, in another place in his public comments, which had the effect of encouraging small investors to buy shares without explaining the risks involved to them?

Lord Popat: My Lords, the prospectus was very clear about the risks involved in acquiring these shares. With regard to small investors, we allocated around 18% to retail investors. Ninety per cent of the retail investors who applied for shares up to £10,000 took up the shares knowing what the risks would be.

Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab): My Lords, can the Minister explain the contradiction between the Secretary of State’s claim that value for money was central to the Government’s strategy, given the current share price of over £5, and the view of many respected analysts that the offer price was seriously undervalued and 20% oversubscribed by banks? Can he give the House an assurance that the remaining 38% of shares will not be sold at another knockdown price?

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Lord Popat: My Lords, the remaining 30% of shares is being held by the bank. We have an agreement with the Royal Mail that this will not be sold for a period of six months. The sale of shares thereafter will depend on the market circumstances and how the Royal Mail is performing in terms of its business profit and in terms of the cash that the business generates.

Lord Dobbs (Con): My Lords, would my noble friend please spend a moment today celebrating the success of this exceptional privatisation, which has placed the Royal Mail on a footing for the future that was undreamed of four years ago? Would he further express and extend his best wishes not only to the management and employees of Royal Mail but also to their customers and of course their new shareholders, many of whom I suspect are sitting on the Benches opposite?

Lord Popat: I thank the noble Lord for those encouraging comments. This sale should be welcomed by all sides of the House. It guarantees that the universal service will remain and helps to provide the funding needed to modernise the Royal Mail. It provides a good solution for the taxpayer, for the Royal Mail employee and for customers. This is about ensuring the long-term success of the Royal Mail and securing the universal service. This privatisation is a positive step. The future of the company is now much brighter than it was. Had we pitched the price higher than £3.30 and it had failed, I am sure that the Benches opposite would have blamed us for the failure. I am glad that it was a great success and I agree with the noble Lord.

Legal Aid (Information about Financial Resources) (Amendment) Regulations 2013

Court of Appeal (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2013

Motions to Approve

3.22 pm

Moved by Lord McNally

That the draft regulations and draft order laid before the House on 20 May and 8 July be approved.

Relevant documents: 2nd and 8th Reports from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, considered in Grand Committee on 15 October.

Motions agreed.

European Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Regulations 2013

Motion to Approve

Moved by Lord Wallace of Saltaire

That the draft regulations laid before the House on 9 July be approved.

Relevant Document: 8th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, considered in Grand Committee on 15 October.

Motion agreed.

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Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill5th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights

Second Reading

3.23 pm

Moved by Viscount Younger of Leckie

That the Bill be read a second time.

Relevant document: 5th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Viscount Younger of Leckie) (Con): My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

This Government have made a commitment to increased transparency in public life so that we can offer the public greater confidence in our political system. The Bill will build on the transparency measures which we have already put in place. This Government were the first to publish details of the meetings that Ministers and Permanent Secretaries hold with external organisations, and we also publish details of ministerial interests, hospitality, departmental business plans and a wide range of raw data relating to the business of government. This Bill will now extend those themes of openness and accountability to our political system.

I would like briefly to say something about the progress of the Bill to date. The Government are committed, wherever possible, to publishing legislation in draft with a view to pre-legislative scrutiny. While it was not possible to publish a draft Bill in this case, the measures it contains have been subject to considered and expert scrutiny. The proposal for a statutory register of lobbyists was analysed by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee prior to the Bill’s introduction. Since then, the Bill has also been considered on the Floor of the other place in Committee. Ministers and officials have continued to meet stakeholders regularly in order to take account of their views as the Bill progresses, and noble Lords will note the amendments which were made in the other place. I therefore believe there has been and will continue to be considerable scrutiny of this Bill. I value in particular the considered input made by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, the Constitution Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I very much look forward to the further analysis that this House will bring to the Bill today. I turn now to the principal measures in it.

The Bill has three main parts. First, it will fulfil the coalition’s commitment to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists. Secondly, it paves the way for greater clarity on how much money organisations spend on campaigning at general elections. Thirdly, it will give the public greater assurance about the completeness and accuracy of the membership register which trade unions already keep. This House has long had a history of shining the light of transparency on our political system through open and challenging debate. No doubt noble Lords have followed the debates in the other place on the measures within this Bill. I and my noble

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friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire greatly look forward to debating the detail of what the Bill does and does not set out to do, and it is an occasion for noble Lords to apply their usual thorough scrutiny.

I shall summarise briefly the measures in the Bill. Part 1 introduces a statutory register of consultant lobbyists. The Government believe that lobbying is an essential part of our democracy and plays a vital role in the policy-making process. It ensures that Ministers and senior officials hear a full range of views from those who will be affected by government decisions. It is important that everyone’s voice is heard in Westminster and Whitehall. No one should be discouraged from making their views known to decision-makers. There has been some concern, however, that some lobbying activity is opaque and there is a perception that certain powerful organisations and individuals could exert a disproportionate influence on government. The Government have already taken steps to address those concerns by increasing the transparency of decision-making and the accountability of decision-makers, such as Ministers and senior officials. We are the first Government to proactively and regularly publish details of ministerial meetings, government procurement and other items of public interest. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that the interests of those who seek to influence decision-makers should be equally transparent.

For the first time, details of all Ministers’ and Permanent Secretaries’ meetings with external organisations are published on a quarterly basis. The statutory register of lobbyists is designed to address a specific problem within that context, which is that it is not always clear whose interests are being represented by consultant lobbyists. That is the specific policy gap which the register is intended to fill. It will do so by requiring those who are paid to lobby Ministers and Permanent Secretaries on behalf of a third party to disclose the names of their clients on a publicly available register. Our objective is to ensure increased transparency without discouraging engagement by those who will be affected by policy and legislative decisions, such as businesses, charities, community groups and members of the public. Our provisions for a statutory register constitute a pragmatic and proportionate solution designed to address a specific identified problem. The coalition Government made a commitment to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists and to increase transparency in public life. Part 1 will fulfil that commitment.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): My Lords, can the Minister explain how Mr Lynton Crosby and his tobacco industry interests will be covered by this Bill?

Viscount Younger of Leckie: I do not intend to go into that at this particular stage.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: Very wise.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: I note, however, the point that the noble Lord has made.

Let me now turn to the second part of the Bill. Part 2, put simply, requires those who want to influence the outcome of a general election to be transparent in

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doing so. The changes proposed update a system of regulation which has been in place at the past two UK parliamentary general elections.

Noble Lords will no doubt be aware of the influence that third parties can have on elections. This influence is often very positive, but we believe it should be proportionate. Despite existing controls, there is a real risk of distortion by those who seek to unduly influence the outcome of the election. The Bill takes forward a number of important measures to prevent this occurring.

Expenditure will now be more fully recorded and disclosed. Donations to third parties will now have to be published in advance of an election, rather than after. Certain third parties will also have to provide a statement of accounts. The spending limit for third parties will be lowered. Thirteen years ago, the existing spending limit was fixed in legislation at 5% of the maximum campaign expenditure limit for political parties. This amount was considered quite generous by the organisation that recommended it, the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The committee also noted that groups of third parties could outnumber expenditure by candidates or political parties. That argument remains valid today. Reducing the limit to 2% of the maximum campaign expenditure limit for political parties combats the risk of third party expenditure being used to influence elections. The reduction to a lower, but still very significant, sum is justified. To that same end, the Bill also introduces a measure that will prevent third parties directing the entirety of their spending limit at a single constituency or local area. It will become more difficult for large, well-funded campaigns to overwhelm the local political landscape.

The test for determining if a third party’s expenditure is in fact controlled expenditure is the same in both the Bill and existing legislation. Only expenditure that can,

“reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success”,

of parties or candidates will be regulated and count towards a third party’s spending limit.

Currently only expenditure on election material is regulated. This Bill extends the range of activities that are regulated to other activities such as public rallies and organised media events. This is the same list that applies to the activities of political parties. It implements a very sensible recommendation by the independent regulator, the Electoral Commission.

I should also make clear what this Bill does not do. Noble Lords will be aware that some charities and other organisations have expressed concern that the Bill will prevent campaigning on policy issues. I can reassure the House that only those campaigns that promote electoral success will be regulated.

It is the Government’s belief that the vast majority of charities or other groups campaigning for their preferred policies will not be affected by the Bill. This belief is based on the guidance of the Electoral Commission and its experience of regulating third parties at the 2005 and 2010 UK parliamentary general elections. At those elections charities and other campaign groups were not prevented from engaging with, commenting on or influencing public policy.

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No elements of this Bill will deprive third parties of the ability to make a contribution to political debate. The regulatory requirements strengthened by this Bill are proportionate. Third parties will not be precluded from campaigning. They will simply be brought into an enhanced spending and donations reporting regime. As a result, the process as a whole will become more transparent.

I now turn to Part 3, which addresses a gap in enforcing existing duties. Section 24 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 requires unions to maintain a register of their members’ names and addresses, and, so far as is reasonably practicable, to keep it accurate and up to date. I hope noble Lords will agree that this measure always was, and remains, reasonable.

Under the Act, however, union members, employers and the public cannot be wholly assured that a register is up to date. The Bill therefore requires unions to provide an annual assurance to the certification officer. Those with more than 10,000 members will be obliged to appoint an independent assurer. The Government are keen not to inhibit the operation of small unions—

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): I thank the noble Viscount for giving way. Does his last comment imply that certification officers have had problems with the current regime?

Viscount Younger of Leckie: One of the issues that we wish to address is the fact that the certification officer has a passive mode so that anybody who wishes to make a complaint can do so, but only if he is a union member.

As I was saying, the Government are keen not to inhibit the operation of small unions, so those with 10,000 or fewer members will be required to submit an annual self-certification that their membership list is up to date.

The Bill will also enable the certification officer proactively to investigate possible discrepancies in the register. He will be able to require documents to be submitted and to appoint an inspector. If a union is non-compliant with the duties in Section 24, the certification officer may make a declaration and a civil enforcement order. Unions will always be given an opportunity to make representations before a declaration or order is made.

I look forward to these measures benefiting from the scrutiny of noble Lords. The Government are committed to implementation which is both effective and proportionate, and we will support the transition by producing guidance. I am aware of concern regarding the impact of the proposals, and I hope to reassure noble Lords now. First, I reiterate that the Government are not challenging the vital role that unions play representing their members’ interests and contributing to public debate.

Secondly, I reassure noble Lords that these proposals do not breach human rights to privacy or freedom of association. If a union is non-compliant with duties under Section 24, it is important that every opportunity is given for that to be remedied. The investigation

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powers will be proportionate: the certification officer can require information only where he deems there is good reason to do so. Existing safeguards in the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act will apply as they do elsewhere. The Bill also includes additional protections to prevent the unauthorised disclosure of member data. These provisions will not allow employers unauthorised access to such information.

I believe that these proposals are reasonable. By proactively providing an annual assurance, unions will give even greater credibility to the important voice that they have in public debate. I also hope that unions themselves will recognise the benefit: many unions have up-to-date registers but there is anecdotal evidence of doubt that that is always the case. The annual assurance process will bring greater credibility in future about the result of ballots; for example, in electing a new general secretary.

This Bill will shine the light of transparency on those represented by consultant lobbyists as they meet key decision-makers in government. This Bill brings further clarity on the influence third parties have on the outcome of elections. This Bill will provide assurance that trade unions have accurate membership records, given that their influence extends far beyond their members. This Government believe that transparency generates accountability.

Lord Martin of Springburn (CB): I thank the noble Viscount for giving way. I am just seeking clarification. I do not need the answer today, but perhaps the Minister can look into this. I recall there were some cases where lobby journalists who held credentials as journalists doubled up as lobbyists and perhaps serviced some all-party groups. That is a very bad practice and something that should not continue. Can the Minister tell the House whether this practice would be allowed under this legislation?

Viscount Younger of Leckie: I thank the noble Lord for that very specific question. I think that it makes sense for me to come back with a full answer.

To conclude, the Government believe that transparency generates accountability and that accountability allows the public to hold public bodies to account. This Government want to be open, transparent and clear on who influences the political system. I commend the Bill to the House, and I beg to move.

3.40 pm

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for his brave attempt to introduce this bad little Bill and certainly look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Horam, who has been in both my party and that of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, but now resides on the Conservative Benches. I may end his career by saying that he gets 12 positive mentions in my book on the Labour Party in the 1970s.

Alas, the Bill will get no positive mentions in anyone’s memoirs. Three years ago, we were promised a statutory register of lobbyists. Instead, we have a skeleton register of only consultant lobbyists, exempting 80% of the

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industry. The word “transparency” in the title is a misnomer. It misses most lobbyists—HS2, Heathrow, the trade associations, the ABI, the BBA, British Gas, npower and the pharmaceutical, defence, tobacco and sugar manufacturers—as they all have in-house lobbyists; and it misses most of those being lobbied. It covers only Ministers and Permanent Secretaries, not senior civil servants, spads and chairs of Select Committees—the name Tim Yeo comes to mind—so defence firms can continue to lobby senior civil servants behind closed doors, untouched by the Bill.

The Bill contains no code of conduct, so any sanction would be only for non-filing of returns, not for unethical behaviour. Without a code and effective sanctions, the Bill will fail to drive up standards.

Furthermore, the Bill is just silly. Anyone who wants to use a lobbyist has only to employ that person directly rather than through a consultant, and then that person does not have to register. The leader of the Commons says that this is to know, when a Minister meets a lobby firm, who its clients are, but he could do that by a flick of the wrist. He simply has to tell Ministers, as they publish their diaries, to name not just the lobby firm but the client on whose behalf the meeting took place. He could do that by 10 o’clock tonight. Instead, as the CBI says,

“any register must go hand-in-hand with strengthening existing reporting of ministers’ and senior officials’ meetings”.

There is nothing in the Bill on that.

Perhaps most pernicious, the Bill hits the small body, not the big. The House knows that I had a certain interest in minimum alcohol pricing. Drinks companies can lobby via their own public affairs staff, but tiny Alcohol Concern, too small for an in-house lobbyist, must use an agency, which must then register. The same is true with plain packaging of cigarettes: Forest can lobby in secret, but should ASH want to use a PR firm, it would have to register and report. That is nonsense.

Just about everyone considers this to be a non-register and that it should instead include paid, professional lobbyists, not simply third-party consultants. As the Law Society of Scotland put it, to apply different rules to different levels of lobbyists may obscure transparency and give rise to confusion by the public, who are unlikely to differentiate between consultants and in-house lobbyists and, because it does not cover lobbying of MPs or civil servants below Permanent Secretaries, it would dilute the objective of true transparency. The Law Society of Scotland is hardly a suspicious, left-wing organisation.

Indeed, the register would list only a tiny proportion of those already on a voluntary register and undermine the good work of professional organisations, such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, which states that the Bill,

“shows a clear lack of understanding of what the practice of lobbying actually entails”,

and will leave out a majority of lobbyists. The Bill fails to support the existing PRCA industry code of ethical conduct and will tell us nothing about who is lobbying whom on what.

Turning to Part 2 of the Bill, there was no prior consultation with the Electoral Commission which will have to police it, or with the organisations concerned.

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The Electoral Commission, the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, your Lordships’ Constitution Committee and the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission all criticise the rush, the absence of pre-legislative scrutiny and the potential impact on rights to freedoms of expression and of assembly. Is this to stop charities campaigning, because if so what is the mischief that it seeks to end? The chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee calls it a solution in search of a problem, for there is no evidence of any problem. Or is this simply about Mr Clegg, afraid of the NUS in Sheffield in 2015, given his broken promises on tuition fees? In that case, perhaps we can rename the Bill the “Sheffield Hallam Retention Bill”.

Or is it the British Legion that the Government have not forgiven for defeating their attempt to abolish the chief coroner? Maybe it is the Association of Medical Royal Colleges, which will no longer be able to print its manifestos in Welsh thanks to the ridiculously low limits. Given that the Electoral Commission says that policy campaigns could be covered, the Law Society is concerned that its comments on legal aid, access to justice and the Human Rights Act will be caught by the Bill. The BMA is similarly deeply concerned, as, should tobacco control become an electoral issue, its campaign could be caught, silencing serious public health arguments. Not for nothing has Tom Burke, chair of E3G called Part 2,

“misconceived in intent, carelessly drafted and being promoted with such indecent haste as to call into question the motives of its promoters”.

Our own Constitution Committee warns that it will affect the fundamental common law right to freedom of political expression, and the ability of people and organisations to engage with the Government and to participate in political and electoral campaigning.

A large number of faith-based bodies, including the Salvation Army, World Jewish Relief, the Methodist Conference, Islamic Relief and the Quakers wrote to the Prime Minister, not only about the rushed timetable but about their fears that it might,

“curtail our ability to express deeply-held beliefs in the political arena”,

as it,

“does not adequately safeguard the activities of religious organisations, and that there is a very real risk”,

to “non-biased political activity.”

Why is there all this additional red tape, and costs on charities? The Heavy Reporting Requirements will start in May 2014, and include weekly returns during the short campaign. This is hard enough for a political party with all the procedures set up to do this and challenging for a large charity with a big back-office function. It is impossible for charities with volunteer treasurers.

The Government, we thought, wanted to encourage the big society and active citizenship. Yet, as the Hansard Society has said, when public interest in politics is at its lowest point and fewer than 1% are members of a political party, this is hardly the time to throw an ambiguous rulebook at organisations whose activities might actually interest the public in the political process. The RSPB reckons that it is illogical

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to halve the threshold and caps at the same time as widening the activities that count towards them, and that this could seriously curtail legitimate charitable work. The National Trust fears that it could undermine its ability to perform its statutory role to promote the preservation of places of natural beauty and historic interest. It is concerned that this law could restrict the contribution that charities make to public policy debate. Oxfam, which would probably have to identify donors and the reason for their donation, says the Bill could have a severe impact on its work. The Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service fears the Bill is trying to gag it. It is involved in the Living Wage Campaign, studying the impact of government policy on local charities, and working with disability charities to minimise the impact of welfare reforms on users. All fall within its charitable objectives, yet all could fall subject to the Act.

The Bill’s uncertainty and its chilling effect will dampen the enthusiasm of local groups for campaigning since, as soon as they consider spending more than £2,000, or £5,000 in England—including voluntary and staff time, and travel—they will have to enter the nightmare of registration. Furthermore, any mistakes and we are talking criminal not civil sanctions, although whether this places trustees or staff at risk has yet to be clarified.

The Bill fails to live up to the aims of the Open Government Partnership, whose conference I understand that Francis Maude will chair next week. It is committed to freedoms of association and expression, and to the opening up and safeguarding of space for civil society to engage with government. This Bill does exactly the opposite. It seems designed to stifle engagement and make it harder for civil society to play a role.

Finally, what on earth is Part 3 about? It arrived with no prior consultation and following no complaints. The Leader of the Commons admitted that there is no evidence of inadequately kept trade unions records, so is this part simply trying to bankrupt unions by giving them an extra level of audit? This comes from the Government who are promoting a deregulation Bill. What have this Government got against working people and their representatives? They will do anything for business, announcing this month:

“Form filling for companies ditched in red tape cut”,

which a Minister trumpeted was about:

“Cutting unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape for businesses”.

But if there is any chance to clip the wings of employees’ representatives, they simply cannot resist. Perhaps the Minister can explain why, out of all the myriad professional, trade, social, legal, civil society, medical and other membership organisations, the unions alone are picked out by the Bill.

The Bill allows companies unfettered access to Ministers and Parliament but imposes restrictions and red tape on charities and unions. It has managed to unite the TaxPayers’ Alliance, the Countryside Alliance, the National Secular Society, faith groups, Business for Britain, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, the Women’s Institute and the Woodland Trust. They are all in opposition. I congratulate the Government on that achievement.

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Part 1 fails to deal with the lobbying problem, Part 2 deals with a non-existent problem and Part 3 deals with a made-up problem. The Government would be well advised to pause as recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, by the churches and faith groups which wrote to the Prime Minister and by just about every commentator. They should think again, consult, listen and then come back with a much better Bill. If they fail to do so, we will work in Committee and on Report to make this Bill better and workable.

3.52 pm

Lord Tyler (LD): My Lords, in many years of public life I cannot recall a set of proposals that have been so misunderstood and, to some extent, misrepresented. I hope that during this debate, and particularly in Committee, we will be able to reassure the many charities and smaller campaign groups that have been in touch with us that the Bill is not about stopping them contributing to our democracy. As my noble friend the Minister said, the target is the very wealthy and powerful interests that would seek to influence executive decisions and our elections, and which evidently feel threatened by greater transparency. I am interested to see that some charities that have been in touch with me now see that they have more of a problem with charity law than with the Bill. They may have to look carefully at the intentions of the Bill and at the detail of the charity law with which they may have a problem.

The Bill is a first, essential step towards taking big money out of politics: an issue that has been with us ever since Bernie Ecclestone, the tobacco lobby and Formula 1 was brought to our attention in the early years of the Blair regime. That has obviously increased our awareness of the threat to our democracy. I recall that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, urged the Government to introduce a lobbying Bill in her contribution to the debates in May—and I endorsed her request. Ironically, she referred specifically to the tobacco lobby and to the Murdoch empire. Her colleagues in the previous Government have good reason to remember both those organisations.

I think that it was the present Prime Minister who said that sunlight was the best disinfectant. As the Minister said, important steps have already been taken to increase transparency in Whitehall about who is meeting whom. However, the Bill will take that a step further, and if we can improve it further again by building on the register, as I will come to in a minute, that will be a very important step forward.

Part 2 deals with the considerable potential threat from “super-PACs”, which are now so evident in the USA. We have to face up to the fact that the capacity of millionaires to set up organisations that could each spend £793,500 in England—and do so in just one constituency if they chose to, under present law—could have a major impact in distorting results.

I am alarmed to note that I have contested some 12 elections, and on each occasion have been advised, on pain of serious penalty, to watch every penny spent in support of my candidature. On one occasion, however, when I was defending a majority of just nine votes,

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I was targeted by a shadowy pro-apartheid group that helped to secure my subsequent defeat. I want to see that type of activity brought into the light of day, and the Bill will start that process.

On Part 1, if I may go into a little more detail, I also have some practical experience since at one time, before politics took over, I had a real job as the head of a public affairs consultancy advising NGOs, environmental organisations, local government and trade associations—what I suppose would now be described as lobbying. The Government’s intention—rightly, in my view—is not to regulate lobbying but to ensure that the sunshine is very firmly imposed on it. We need to know who has the ear of Ministers and other decision-makers. To my mind, including in-house lobbyists would be a red herring and would create a huge telephone directory-style registry, including a huge number of people who would actually be irrelevant to greater transparency. It would not improve the extent to which we could see what was actually going on, because it would lose the wood for the enormous forest of trees, and hide in plain sight what was being done in the name of those paying for it to be done.

Meeting data about interactions with in-house lobbyists are already published, as my noble friend said, and if Oxfam or even Tesco meet a Minister, we know whose interests they are promoting. However, this could of course be greatly improved with a central database, an easily accessible online front end, through which anyone—the media, individual citizens, Members of your Lordships’ House—could establish who has met whom in Government, and indeed what the subject has been at what stage, without, as is currently the case, having to go through 60 different Excel spreadsheets, each parcelled away in different obscure parts of departmental websites. The key to transparency is easy access and simplicity, and the register is a very good first step in that direction.

During the passage of the Bill I will examine two key areas for the improvement of Part 1. First, as has already been referred to, we have to ensure that the meetings of special advisers, who are not directly responsible to the Permanent Secretaries in the same way as other members of the Civil Service, with any consultant lobbyists who have interacted with them are appropriately registered. We should remember that two of the most dramatic scandals involving privileged access in recent years involved ministerial advisers rather than Ministers themselves. Secondly, we have to look very carefully to see how the new statutory register can complement existing voluntary arrangements. The register that the Government propose is deliberately a statutory minimum, but surely it would be perverse if lobbyists then departed from their responsibilities under existing codes put in place by the UK Public Affairs Council.

As I said earlier, there has been a great deal of understandable misunderstanding, but some mis- information as well, about Part 2 of the Bill. I suspect that other Members of your Lordships’ House over recent weeks—in my case, over recent months—have been receiving e-mails referring to a supposed threat to freedom of speech. This is not a gagging Bill; it concerns itself not with what people say but with what they spend. That is the critical issue.

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Those of us who have experience of electoral law know that that principle has been there since 1883, since people back in the 19th century were very concerned about buying votes. I cannot see why anyone who is attempting to influence the outcome of an election—to buy votes, if you like—who happens not to be standing as a candidate, should be able to spend unlimited sums on,

“promoting or procuring electoral success”.

As has already been made clear, that definition has stood four-square in two general elections, and MPs have done the right thing in returning to it.

The current definition in Clause 26 of activities that,

“can reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success”,

for a party or candidate, has been in place since PPERA 2000. The Commons rightly agreed to take out the rather vaguer phrase about “otherwise enhancing the standing” of parties or candidates.

I absolve the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, of any responsibility for the 2000 Act, since I do not think that she was directly involved then. However, many of us at both ends of this building were involved. We should assure her that it has stood the test of time. We took infinite trouble in both Houses to get the definition right. Surely it is ridiculous to say at this stage that the definition is defective, as she implied. If it had been so defective, surely the Electoral Commission, with its practical experience, would have recommended over many years that it needed updating, and, presumably, the Labour Government of the day would have implemented the recommendation. Can we at least accept that the definition stands four-square and is accepted on all sides?

I accept that there is quite a different issue when we come from the definitions to the spending limits, which are at present probably indefensible. The total limit for the United Kingdom is just shy of £1 million. The English limit of £793,500 could be focused on just one constituency. What if the oil companies decided to target a certain Brighton constituency to remove a Green MP, or other interests piled into a few seats held by Members of Parliament opposed to the review of the Hunting Act—which is a practical proposition—or piled into constituencies of prominent Conservatives who happen to favour continued United Kingdom membership of the European Union? The Americans have been teaching many people in this country how to target with big money.

In the past few days I have met representatives of the RSPB, Countryside Alliance, Transparency International, 38 Degrees and Friends of the Earth, and have discussed the situation with many others, through the good offices of the commission of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, to whom I pay tribute. All the organisations seem to agree that the existing regulations may be flawed, so the question is how to get the revised regulations right.

For example, the threshold for registration is obviously a big concern for these organisations. You could plot on a graph transparency on the one hand and bureaucracy on the other in very many areas of life. If transparency is low, the regulatory burden tends to be low, too. If

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accountability is strong, it is likely that the regulatory burden will be significant. The threshold is a question of where we plot this legislation on that graph. The lower thresholds proposed by the Government will improve and increase the accountability of campaign spending. Conversely, they inevitably increase the burden on smaller organisations. It will be our responsibility in your Lordships’ House to get the balance right when we come to Committee.

The second area of concern among a number of organisations is Schedule 3. These provisions flow directly from the Electoral Commission’s recommendation that the activities for which non-parties should have to account should be the same as those for which parties have to account. In that, it is perfectly reasonable to question how staff costs should be applied in the schedule. We will all listen to what the groups say about this and will probe the matter in Committee.

Reference was made to the way in which the Government’s proposals have been examined. Obviously, I think that we would all agree that if timing had permitted, pre-legislative scrutiny would have been desirable. However, the cross-party talks—of which I have direct knowledge—between the three major parties on the area of political funding effectively prevented this. It may well be a criticism that the Deputy Prime Minister should have realised that he was being strung along by the other two parties—that they were not serious about getting a result. However, given that they could not come to an agreement, it was obviously important to move on this particular issue, which was also agreed between the three parties.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, can I nail the myth that is going around that was perpetuated by the Deputy Prime Minister in the Commons last Tuesday? There were no substantive talks at all on third-party funding in the talks to which the noble Lord refers. Far from the current proposals being discussed extensively, they were never raised, never proposed and never discussed. Also, the talks did not break down; they ceased but they did not break down. I wish the noble Lord would not keep perpetuating that myth.

Lord Tyler: My Lords, my information is different on both points. We can have a further discussion after this debate. There was, of course, agreement between the three major parties that there was a need to address the issue. I hope the noble Baroness will agree on that, because there certainly was. Since then, unfortunately, there has been a tendency to jump on the bandwagon.

Meanwhile, there has also been a repetition of the idea that somehow the Electoral Commission was never involved in the exercise. As I have previously told your Lordships’ House, I have served on an informal all-party advisory group for the Electoral Commission for some years. It is simply not accurate to say that the commission has made no contribution to the thought process that led to this Bill. I will quote two warnings given by the commission in February 2013, under the heading, “Regulating Third Party Campaigning in the UK”. The first states that,

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“the rules on general campaigning that is intended to influence voters should reflect the rules for political parties by covering events, media work and polling, as well as election material”.

The second states that,

“the Government should have order-making powers to update the rules on general campaigning, in order to deal with changing campaign methods in future”.

In the months that followed, between February and the publication of the Bill, there was indeed a continual dialogue, and I have a letter from the chair of the commission to confirm that. It is perfectly true that it was not consulted over every single part of the Bill, but a general dialogue continued about the necessary modernisation of the regulatory regime. I think that most Members of your Lordships’ House would say that it is preferable to have full scrutiny of a statutory process than to have a change in ministerial order-making powers.

Our duty now is to get the detail of the Bill right and to reassure those charities that have been unduly concerned. In particular, we will have to be satisfied that registration thresholds, the scope of Schedule 3 and the expenditure limits strike the right balance between transparency and bureaucracy. Delay will not help those who are concerned with this detail. Campaigners need time to assess their plans for the run-up to the May 2015 general election—and, of course, the Electoral Commission needs certainty so that it can give good advice. That is why it recommended opposition to the delaying tactics proposed in the other place.

Your Lordships’ House has an excellent reputation for detailed scrutiny. I hope there will be agreement today that we should get on with that job. This can be a good change in the law that will shine a light on a small but significant area of opacity in lobbying and will prevent the distortion of our politics by wealthy interests.

4.08 pm

Lord Ramsbotham (CB): My Lords, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has already said that this is a very bad Bill, querying why it is being rushed through without proper pre-legislative scrutiny or scrutiny in the other place, and, I would add, without consultation with an affected contributor to the life of the nation, whose contribution is needlessly and avoidably being put at risk.

The Government allege that the aim of the Bill is to restore trust and confidence in the political system by ensuring that the public are able to see how third parties seek to influence it. Other noble Lords will speak on other aspects, but I intend to concentrate on what I hope are the unintended consequences of what is being proposed in Part 2 for one part of a sector that has never sought to influence electoral law but, rather, works hard to try to protect the public. I will not mince my words, because, given the indecent haste with which the Bill is being processed, there is no point in doing so. I believe that the Government should withdraw Part 2 of the Bill now or, at best, submit it to the consultation that has hitherto been denied before bringing in whatever legislation they then feel appropriate. In terms of the voluntary sector, I suggest that need be nothing more than minor amendments to existing arrangements.

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I shall try to illustrate my reasoning by referring to those charitable and voluntary organisations that work in the criminal justice field. At present, the Secretary of State for Justice is seeking to implement what he calls a rehabilitation revolution. At the heart of this, he seeks to reduce the appalling reoffending rate, which is impossible to measure, by awarding contracts to private and voluntary organisations that will be paid by their results. The work that they do with and for offenders will be funded either by social impact bonds, taken out by investors, or the private and voluntary organisations themselves in the hope that they will be successful and so earn payment.

Contracting the voluntary sector is not something new to this Government, but the method is deeply troubling some members of both parts—foundations and trusts, which fund organisations, and the organisations themselves, some quite large and some tiny, which do the work up and down the country, for which they seek funding, either from foundations or trusts or from private donations. The Government call this a partnership, but one ingredient of a successful partnership is mutual trust. The Government must bear in mind that, as at least 50% of rehabilitation work is done by the voluntary sector, they must not do anything that undermines its ability or willingness to contribute to that work. Above all, the Government must avoid giving the impression that they think they own the voluntary sector—nor must they forget that donors do not give money to fund a contracting process; they give it so that the work that they wish to support can be conducted.

While some organisations may involve themselves with policy—indeed, some exist to conduct and publish research and recommendations—that is directed at whichever political party is in power, and in no sense can it be described as electioneering. Even if they were tempted to involve themselves, they are prevented from doing so by the current system of checks and balances, with regulation by the Charity Commission, including a document called CC9—Speaking Out Guidance on Campaigning and Political Activity by Charities, which sets out clear, sensible and balanced rules; guidance by the Electoral Commission on campaigning in the run-up to elections, including rules about supporting candidates and parties; and the fact that all charities must prepare accounts, which they must make available on request. Therefore, I believe that the restrictions on this most important activity by those in support of the criminal justice system that are implied in Schedule 3 of the Bill are not only inappropriate, because they are already more than adequately covered, but potentially damage the protection of the public.

When it is looked at logically, I am amazed that the Secretary of State for Justice did not seek to have Part 2 of the Bill suppressed because of its potential impact on his revolution, not least in the damage that the proposals are doing to the very trust and confidence that the Government seek to promote in the voluntary sector, which has always enjoyed the precious freedom to speak out on key issues, injustices and public concerns. So bad is this part of the legislation that it is unclear which work is classified as electoral campaigning, as opposed to publicising the public nature of work being done on behalf of the public. It is unclear before

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which election time limits are to be imposed—and there are elections of some sort in different parts of the country almost every year. It is at best difficult to attribute staff costs to different work streams, and small organisations find existing regulations time and money consuming enough now, every penny being spend on bureaucracy being denied to actual work.

I will not go on, because I have no doubt that other noble Lords will add to this catalogue during this debate. Whatever they may feel about lobbyists, I implore the Government to think again before they inflict unnecessary damage on one of the jewels in our national crown, our charitable and voluntary sector.

4.14 pm

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, want to comment on Part 2 from the perspective of charities and faith groups and the scoping out of a framework in this debate for further work. I declare an interest as a trustee of Christian Aid and as chair of the governors of the Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service, the secretariat service of which comprises Central Lobby consultants who will have to register under Part 1 of the Bill.

I recognise that the Government are trying hard to listen to concerns about Part 2. Like others, I have been in correspondence with the Leader of the Commons and his team. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and others have said, the Constitution Committee noted:

“The provisions of Part 2 directly affect the fundamental common law right to freedom of political expression”.

That is a very serious challenge to these proposals. As has been said, concern has been expressed by the Electoral Commission and the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Therefore, this question is raised not just by people like me from the faith and charity sector but by some very weighty, much more expert people. I ask the Minister to comment on three of the major tests for regulating transparency: the test of influencing electoral outcomes; the test of levels of financial expenditure; and the test regarding the constituency as a measure—three of the key tests.

First, as regards the test of influencing electoral outcomes, what is at stake here is not the transparency of lobbying but the danger of trying to control politics and standardise political debate on the single model of political parties, which are only one part of the mix. The Bill is part of a process whereby politics has been professionalised. This House is part of that process as many Members are full-time professional politicians. That has led to high standards and enormously sophisticated legislation, but at the same time politics has taken an inward turn to the pragmatic and is less guided by the big visionary ideologies of the past. The result of politics becoming professionalised and pragmatic has been disastrous for democratic politics because the demos, the people, have just walked away. It has become so professional, detailed and dominated by experts and expert groups wanting smart outcomes, that the great public, as we know, have retreated into personal space to get on with life and cannot even be bothered to turn out at elections. Democracy is in crisis in our culture and we need to read these proposals within that framework.

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Professional lobbying groups with sharp, smart outcomes are filling the space of working politics and ordinary people with political instincts are being excluded. What we lack in politics, it seems to me, is a space for the amateur, those with occasional engagement and people interested in particular issues. Very few people are members of political parties or of the professional lobbying groups that pursue political lobbying in a smart way, but millions of people are involved in charities and faith groups. The importance of all those millions of people is that we gather together in faith groups and charities to pursue goodness for ourselves and others, and that is a political energy. People want to do good for their neighbour, community and country. That is political energy. It is often concerned with big issues and principles and is often vague and unformed, but surely the task of a Government and their legislation should not be to close all that down and put it in a box that looks like another political party but to listen, interpret and help shape that energy so that it can create goodness appropriately and people can be encouraged to be part of a nation and its political culture.

We should be delighted that people from the charitable and faith sectors are making all this fuss. They are interested. They have political energy for goodness. My concern is that the proposals under the test of influencing electoral outcomes are predicated on a very narrow, party-political approach to how politics works. Under this test, will the Minister comment on free speech and freedom of assembly? Does the Minister accept that charities and faith groups bring a different kind of political energy? One that is vital and needs encouraging and cannot be bureaucratised into processes and ways of operating that have suited political parties—in the past at least—but do not suit this particular kind of energy.

Secondly, what does the Minister say about charities and faith groups convening hustings—meetings—to discuss political issues? The proposed regulatory framework might make this subject to registration, putting in accounts and all that kind of thing. There is a great aspiration from this Government for a big society, which I believe in. The danger of these proposals is that we are bringing into effect a Big Brother society where all the little details are imposed on people from a very narrow model sapping political energy and making it more difficult for people to contribute.

Thirdly, under the test of influencing electoral outcomes, will the Minister comment on the space that will be given to religious leaders to make statements and put things out on the web in an election period? Will there be controls on that kind of proactive engagement?

More rapidly, on the second test of levels of financial expenditure, can the Minister give a rationale for the level of financial controls that have been set for the charitable, voluntary and faiths sectors? Why is there a financial measure for energy that is so often less focused but equally vibrant? Charity law provides a well established regulatory framework for the political engagement of this sector. Why have we brought in these lower thresholds that bring a bureaucratic control and pressure on the free-flowing energy of political concern among the

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wider public? What is the rationale for extending the scope of controlled expenditure on third parties? Why has the financial tool been used when we could have explored current charity law and how to develop that in terms of responsible and transparent operating?

The third test is the use of constituency as the measure. This may just show my ignorance of how politics works. I can understand the need for a constituency to order voters in a particular mass so you can count them. However, in an age of social media how are you going to measure the geographical influence of anybody, even if they are in somebody’s constituency? How are you going to measure whether it affects people over the border or has come from somewhere else? Freedom of association has a very different meaning in the virtual age. I would have hoped that this legislation would have thought about that creatively but the test of a constituency and its effect is a rather crude and simplistic measure. Will the Minister give a rationale for the constituency test and the criteria that can really be used to make an informed judgment when all this stuff flies around the internet all the time?

We need transparency for professional lobbying and for political parties but we need transparency, and that is openness, in political debate. We should rejoice that so many charities, faith groups and voluntary groups want to be involved. They are subject to regulation in the political sphere through our tradition of charity Acts. Politics needs this political energy for the common good and all the signals—as we can tell from our e-mail inboxes—are that this source of political energy is being closed down and discouraged at the very time we are wringing our hands because the great public are not interested in political parties, elections or the democratic process. So I, too, hope that there will be a pause, and that the Minister will be willing to sit down with representatives of charities, faith and voluntary groups to look at proper controls and accountability. There must be accountability. How can it come out of the existing charity law, and how can we minimise bureaucratic, financial and geographic tests?

We must encourage and celebrate political debate and commitment. The task of politicians is to enable that and to listen to and interpret it, helping it in all its wild generality and off-beamness to find a way of contributing and helping the country to get a proper sense of direction and a proper buy-in from its citizens.

4.25 pm

Lord Lang of Monkton (Con): My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby. As we are debating a lobbying Bill, I suppose that I should declare my interests. I had the honour to chair the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which is much concerned with lobbying, and to be a member of the Select Committee on the Constitution. Both, in a sense, are marginal to the central debate surrounding this Bill, but the Select Committee criticised, with good cause, the unnecessary speed and lack of advance consultation with which the Bill was introduced in another place. I believe that undue haste is bad government. The matter was three years in gestation with no draft Bill, no White Paper and no consultation, and unsurprisingly therefore the content has been

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widely criticised. This, I believe, should be, as the committee said in its report, a matter of significant concern. Indeed, it baffles me that Governments should behave in this unnecessary but highly provocative way.

I know that, because of that, Part 2 of the Bill has aroused great concern—we have heard much of that already in this debate—especially among charities. Of course, Part 3 was always bound to attract a certain amount of interest from the party opposite, but in the time available I propose to confine my remarks to Part 1.

While the Bill aims at professional consultant lobbyists, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments focuses on individuals. We are concerned with Ministers leaving government and senior civil servants leaving or retiring from the Civil Service, and that embraces ambassadors and senior military personnel. One of our tasks in considering their applications to us is to prevent them, when taking up subsequent appointments, whether with industry, commerce or even charities and consultancies, lobbying their former colleagues or government in general for up to two years. We are concerned with a different part of the lobbying spectrum. It is a broad and divisive spectrum, and therefore we have a different definition of lobbying.

The Bill has another definition because it has a different focus: on corporate lobbying consultancies, rather than on individuals. I believe that definition is all in these matters, and a single, comprehensive definition of lobbying is elusive—indeed, perhaps impossible. As the Government’s briefing note says, and as the Minister said today, its aim is to,

“shine the light of transparency on consultant lobbying”,

not to act as a complete regulator of the industry. That creates anomalies, which I shall come to, but it is probably wise to concentrate on that category in the Bill rather than to seek a comprehensive solution, because lobbying comes in all shapes and sizes and from many different sources. They are not all malign or dangerous to parliamentary democracy. Indeed, the taint that has begun to fall on some aspects should not be allowed to be got out of proportion.

Lobbying in one form or another has been around for centuries. Plantagenet kings held their Parliaments in all parts of England, and they summoned those Parliaments not just to raise taxation for their foreign wars and crusades but to hear the pleas, complaints and concerns of their citizens, to entrench their kingship and, indeed, to enact Acts of Parliament and thus to give form to the rule of law over a period of time.

Ever since then, lobbying has been, and is, part of the life-blood of our parliamentary democracy. We cannot and should not seek to choke it off. Therefore, the Bill is surely right not to try to do that but to focus on the main areas of concern. However, shining the light of transparency, in the best Nolan tradition, on one aspect underlines the lack of transparency in others. It may be that the parameters are too tightly drawn, and that needs to be explained because a spotlight on one sector casts a shadow around about it. For example, the Bill does not include in-house public affairs departments or multiclient firms, such as lawyers pursuing the legal interests of their clients. What of consultant lobbyists who do not themselves

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lobby government, but who train their clients and advise them on whom to lobby and how to go about lobbying?

On the persons who are lobbied, the focus is put on Ministers and Permanent Secretaries or the equivalent, but does not cover special advisers, who are often well placed to influence government policy. What about those civil servants who are below Permanent Secretary level, but are highly expert and influential in particular sectors of, for example, industry, defence or health and may work closely with major companies in those fields? Ministers and Permanent Secretaries are already required to disclose on a quarterly basis the names of those outside government whom they meet. Has the Minister considered whether an easier, and perhaps more effective, approach to the lobbying issue might be to require anyone in government, whether parliamentarian or civil servant, who is lobbied by discernible commercial interest to declare that in a lobbying register?

I welcome the provisions approved in another place and the clarification in Schedule 1 of the position of parliamentarians. In this House in particular, there are many noble Lords with distinguished careers from which they have derived immense expertise and wisdom who could feel inhibited from speaking on their specialist subjects in this House for fear of being thought, quite wrongly, to be lobbying in some way. I hope that the Bill may help to lift that particular shadow.

In courtesy to the many remaining speakers in this debate I have been relatively brief. I conclude by saying that the Bill as it stands, with its register, registrar and enforcement powers, has a net, but one that will probably catch few fish. It may be enough to draw the sting and the taint from the lobbying issue. I hope so; but if not, it will be something to build on.

4.31 pm

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab): My Lords, it is important that we retain some clarity about why there were calls for a Bill to regulate lobbying. It was to deal with the damage to our democracy caused by the introduction of professional lobbyists and the toxic effect of big money. There was general concern that our democracy should not fall into the grip of rich men or commercial interests. I am afraid that both our Houses came under scrutiny because of the ways in which wads of cash and other inducements seem to be waved at politicians to secure favourable policy, or even promises of places on boards at the end of political careers.

There were good reasons, therefore, why there should be calls for a Bill. As citizens, we seek the attention of our politicians to persuade them of our cause, so that the interests and concerns of all sections of our population might be better served. Lobbying is vital to our democracy: it is how we change policy and push for different legislation; it is how we see society evolving and how democracy ultimately works.

Many people in this House have lobbied for change, and without being paid for it. We were active citizens; and active citizenry is what this is about. It is about adding to the social capital that has helped to keep our democracy strong and in good heart; that is

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why it has had the respect of the world. This Bill grew out of concern that a poison was leeching into our politics.

I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. We are seriously alarmed that this Bill has been rushed unnecessarily through Parliament and that there has been inadequate time for the proper scrutiny and consultations that are vital for the improvement of any Bill. A whole set of amendments has come from the Government that require scrutiny, but we have not had time to deal with it. There should be further consultations with the Electoral Commission, the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, and other relevant stakeholders. We are urging that there should be a pause at some stage to allow that to happen.

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has also made recommendations which should have a response from the Government before we go forward. It really is unacceptable that a committee such as the Joint Committee on Human Rights, tasked by Parliament to analyse the human rights implications of legislation, should not be able to report on a Bill until it has left the first House, all because of unnecessary speed, especially when there are issues in this Bill that go to the heart of our democracy—for example, freedom of expression and freedom of association.

This is not emergency legislation or law that requires fast-tracking. It is wrong that the Government have timetabled this Bill in a way that does not allow us to do our job properly, whether on Select Committees or as Members of this House. This is not the first time that the JCHR has had to raise concerns about the inadequacy of time available to scrutinise the human rights compatibility of significant government amendments in relation to Bills. It is a recurring problem, which I am raising so that this House hears it and because it has constitutional implications.

Our concerns with this Bill are serious. It currently is not fit for purpose. More time is needed to ensure that proposals are proportionate and do not have unintended consequences for campaigners’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association. The protection of electoral process is a clear, legitimate aim of government. We do not want a United States style system of election spending by third parties. It is important that single-issue campaigners do not have the ability to distort outcomes unfairly by mass injections of money and nor should rich businessmen.

However, we are concerned that lack of understanding about any new rules and arrangements might dissuade charities and campaigning groups within our communities from participating in campaigns, with the potential chilling effect on free speech and freedom of association. Reform of non-party campaigning regulation requires careful consideration and we need time for that. That is why we are recommending a pause in the legislative process, as has been suggested by other Members of this House. We are asking for more time to be allowed for further consideration of the measures.

The pause could take a number of different forms. It could take place before or even after Committee stage. That can be debated. This Bill is being rushed through Parliament and the consequences could be

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very serious. The law, when it creates unintended consequences, is bad law. One of the roles of this House is to ensure that we do not create bad law. The Government should listen to public clamour—indeed, there is a clamour out there—and I hope that the Minister will act accordingly.

4.37 pm

Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB): My Lords, perhaps I may say on behalf of the House how much we are looking forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Horam. He brings to the House a great wealth of experience from the other place. He has been a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in two departments and a member of a number of influential committees. He also brings a very interesting political trajectory, which indicates his capacity to enter into the point of view of other people and an independence of mind, both of which are characteristics of this House. We very much look forward to hearing more of those characteristics in his maiden speech and in further speeches in the House.

I declare an interest as chair of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement. This commission has been set up with the backing of more than 50 churches and campaigning groups. However, due to the extreme speed with which this Bill is being pushed through, the commission has had only very limited time in which to act. Hearings have taken place in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, as well as in London, but our report will not be published until next Tuesday. It will be in time for Committee stage but not for today. Today, therefore, I speak in a personal capacity, although obviously drawing on some of the evidence that has been put to us so far.

My concern, as is that of so many, is the sheer speed with which this Bill is being pushed through. It is a major concern of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, the Select Committee on the Constitution and the Electoral Commission. There is total agreement—no disagreement at all—that big spending campaigns should be properly regulated. But the changes made in this Bill, compared with what was in place for the two previous elections, mean that charities and campaigning groups feel that their fundamental right to free speech will be severely curtailed. They have not been consulted and nor has the Electoral Commission, which has to offer guidance on the implementation of the law. They have grave doubts about the Bill as it stands.

Part 2 of the Bill, as we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, has united an extraordinary number of organisations. I am not going to go through the list but will just mention the National Trust. It argues that its campaigning, which has brought about so many benefits in relation to the countryside which we now take for granted, would simply not be possible under the Bill.

One of the reasons why charities and campaigning groups need to be consulted is that they are key players in keeping our democracy alive. With the drastic fall in political party membership and the indifference of so many to professional politics, it is

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these groups that arouse people’s interest and help to focus their concerns. At election times it is the churches and charities that organise the hustings. The CARE organisation, for example, was responsible for facilitating more than 300 hustings during the last election. It is the charities and campaigning groups that educate the electorate about particular issues so that they can put intelligent questions to the candidates. Overall they have had a huge influence. It was the churches and aid agencies which combined together to mount one of the biggest campaigns that we have ever seen, on dropping third-world debt. That was followed up with campaigns on the millennium goals and overseas aid generally. These campaigns have influenced all the major parties in a very positive way—how much poorer the world would have been without them. Because of the key role that these bodies now play in democratic engagement and in keeping democracy alive, Parliament needs to be particularly careful about any legislation which affects their ability to do this.

It is said that there are those who resent the role now played by charities in our society. Some apparently would like to confine them to service provision, leaving the formation of political policy to politicians. Whether or not this is the case, it does raise a fundamental question at the outset. Why has Part 2 suddenly appeared? What is the problem it is trying to fix? We are told that it stems from a worry that American-style big-money campaigning such as Citizens United might come over the Atlantic. If that is so, however, it would be easily caught by the present regulations. As far as the United Kingdom is concerned, in the 2005 and 2010 general elections only two third parties exceeded the new lower limit for the election year. In 2005 it was UNISON and the Conservative Rural Action Group and in 2010 it was UNISON and Vote for Change.

No problem has been identified and no reason has been given for this reduction or the rationale for this figure or any other. For the vast majority of charities and campaigning groups, it is the new threshold at which they will they have to register which has given rise to the widest concern. This has reduced from £10,000 to £5,000 a year in England and from £5,000 to £2,000 a year in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. As if this was not limiting enough, the range of activities which will count towards the sum has been greatly widened. Until now it has only been the cost of election leaflets and posters. Now, according to the long list in proposed new Schedule 8A to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, it will include all advertising and all costs involved in this, all unsolicited material addressed to electors and all associated costs, all expenses concerned with market research, canvassing and provision of services for the media or conferences, transport, travel costs, rallies and public meetings generally.

The scope is exceedingly wide and concerns expenditure over the whole year before an election as well as the immediate run-up to it, including staff costs in so far as they are connected with activities for election purposes which we know, according to Clause 26, are activities which can reasonably be regarded as promoting or procuring electoral success at any relevant election for a registered party or candidate.

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There is a huge range of questions raised by this but the overall effect of reducing the limits at which a charity will have to register and the increased number of activities that will have to be taken into account when calculating the cost means that charities and campaigning groups which regard trying to influence public policy as one of their core activities will be seriously inhibited. It is not that they will be spending big sums; on the whole, they will not. However, from the beginning of an election year, if the Bill is approved, they will be very frightened of quickly going over the limit and doing something illegal. Many trustees of charities feel that it is part of their fiduciary duty—or they will do—to curtail severely, if not stop altogether, a range of activities that might be seen to be on the borderline for fear that the charity would subsequently be regarded as acting illegally.

If, however, they decide to take the risk and register, the paperwork needed to subdivide the elements of expenditure and people’s time could be a huge bureaucratic burden on small charities or campaigning groups, especially during the actual election period itself when they will have to produce weekly accounts of any expenditure. The impact assessment calculates that the cost will be only between nothing and £800 for any one organisation, but many charities think that this is a major underestimate of the kind of costs that might be involved.

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, I am very struck by what the noble and right reverend Lord is saying. Does he not agree that the ground he is now covering brings into the light the fundamental contradiction that under charity law, charities are expected to make the best possible use of every penny that is available to them in fulfilling their purposes? This Bill is going to force them to waste it on bureaucracy.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: That is a valuable point and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Judd.

There is a whole range of other problems. If groups campaign on a particular issue, the total costs involved will be attributed to each charity. Some of the most effective campaigns in recent years have come about because charities have combined. There are particular problems in relation to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, where the sum has now been reduced to a paltry £2,000 in the year. I am not going to deal with that now, but it might emerge in subsequent days.

Time and again we have heard the phrase “chilling effect” being used. Some people say that they cannot understand why charities are worried about it because there will be no curtailing of their freedom. It is the combination of these elements, the lower limits and the increased range of activities that count towards them, together with a continuing fundamental uncertainty about the definition of an electoral activity in practice that is making so many charities feel that their freedom to engage is in fact being threatened. The Government are worried about a large fish across the Atlantic called Citizens United and fear that it might swim over here, but instead of waiting for it to come, they have sent out a deep sea trawler which has thrown up a huge amount of sand and confusion from the bottom

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of the sea and put a net over charities which have been swimming quite legitimately in the waters of democracy. It seems quite absurd.

There is a case for including a number of activities in what counts for electoral purposes. I think that we can agree on that, although the question of staff time raises all sorts of difficulties, particularly in the case of voluntary time and whether it is workable at all. But what is strange is that all these activities are being brought together—the lowering of the threshold and an increase in the activities that count towards it. Will the Minister explain what the problem is that has given rise to this severe curtailment? It is rather like offering someone a sum of money for a piece of work and then telling them that the amount is being halved while at the same time they will have to complete a number of other tasks in order to earn the money at all. Surely if there were no reported problems before, and the number of activities is to be increased, the thresholds should in fact be raised, not lowered, in order to account for the ordinary activities that charities regard as part of their core duties.

As I have said, there is a logical case for including a lot of these activities, but will the Minister say something about how these charities are to assess volunteer time? The National Trust, for example, has thousands of volunteers. Are they to be taken into account?

Lord Phillips of Sudbury (LD): I am sorry to interrupt the noble and right reverend Lord, because I agree with every word that he is saying. May I just shoot one canard? It has been raised more than once. Section 87(2)(c) of the 2000 Act says,

“the provision by any individual of his own services which he provides voluntarily in his own time and free of charge”,

shall not be controlled expenditure.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. I hope very much that the Minister will agree with that.

There is just one other point I would like to make. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, has suggested that the present definition of an electoral activity promoting or procuring electoral success at any relevant election is accepted by virtually everyone concerned. I think that charities have not in fact been quite so happy about that as he suggests. There is still genuine uncertainty because this is a genuinely difficult area. If, for instance, a campaigning group on climate change looks at the policies of the different parties and assesses them according to whether it thinks that their policies are desirable as far as climate change is concerned, does that count as an activity for promoting or procuring electoral success at any general election? It seems to me that people of good will could argue that either way. Therefore, is there not a need for government lawyers, Charity Commission lawyers and the lawyers of charities to get together to see whether this really is the best definition or whether we can come up with something better?

Lord Tyler: I agree precisely with what the noble and right reverend Lord has just said. As was said earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, it is

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charity law that has restricted many of these activities in the past. We have to make sure that these particular forms of legislation are mutually compatible so that everybody is clear where they stand.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: That highlights the final point I want to make. Before this Bill proceeds any further, would it not be sensible for the Government to get government lawyers and charity lawyers together to see if we can get total agreement about the definition of the key phrase in this Bill?

This highlights the final recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights that there should be a pause in this legislation. The committee says that,

“our primary recommendation is to urge the Government to 'pause' the Bill's passage through Parliament in order to allow for further consultation and scrutiny”.

It would be much better to have a Bill before the House which unites the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Constitution Committee, the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, the Electoral Commission and the charities—bodies which at the moment appear to have very severe doubts about it.

4.52 pm

Lord Horam (Con): My Lords, I rise to make my maiden speech in this House. First, I thank the staff of all departments of the House of Lords for their unfailing helpfulness and kindness over the past few days. Secondly, I thank all those Members who have welcomed me here in the Chamber and outside, including the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. I was delighted to find from the remarks of the noble Baroness that I was mentioned positively 12 times in her book. I can think of no other book where I am mentioned 12 times positively. I must pop out to buy a copy and thumb quickly through the index—perhaps that was her intention all along. I also thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for his kind remarks. It is good of him to think that after 31 years in the other place I am still capable of independent thought. That is a wonderful idea and I shall hold it to my breast.

The reason I have elected to make my maiden speech today is that Part 2 of the Bill places many additional tasks on the Electoral Commission, and for 18 months or so I have been one of the 10 electoral commissioners—although I should say immediately that today I am speaking for myself and not for the commission. The commission has sent out a very comprehensive and succinct brief to everybody, which I think noble Lords will possess.

The other commissioner in the Lords is my good friend, the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark. There are four commissioners nominated by the political parties, as he and I are, and six without any background in politics. Obviously we are there for our splendid independence of judgment, as has just been mentioned by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, but also because we probably know a few of the dodgy things that go on in politics. Of course, he and I are both saints in that respect, but no doubt we are aware of some things that are done by other parties in general elections and are there for that reason as well.

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As I have discovered in my 18 months on the Electoral Commission, it is a well run organisation, with a dedicated staff, and I know that the Government will pay attention to what it is saying during the course of this Bill and the discussions around it. The Electoral Commission regulates all elections and referenda held in the UK. That covers the whole business of monitoring what parties do with funds: how they raise them and how they spend them within the compass of electoral law. It does not have anything to do with parliamentary boundaries or local authority boundaries, which many people think it does. It does not have anything to do with those issues and I think that it is rather glad about that. However, the UK is fortunate to have two such organisations as the Electoral Commission and the group of Boundary Commissions to monitor and regulate matters in this area.

If one looks across the Atlantic to where they have no such organisations, one sees absolute gerrymandering of seats, which produces the sort of extreme politicians who have led to such difficulties in Washington over the past few weeks, and the super-PACs, which distort politics in the USA. It is this final point which is addressed in Part 2 of the Bill. I agree with the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, that the UK is nothing like the United States. Obviously, that is so; the political climate is wholly different. But the fact is that spending in elections by third parties, whether they are single-issue campaigners, trade unions or voluntary organisations, has become an issue. Therefore, just as political parties are limited in what they can spend and how they can spend it, so should these other organisations be. This is the principle behind this Bill.

Nevertheless, as has been said on many occasions in this debate already, there is a balance to be struck. It is important not to damage civil society or freedom of speech. In my view, the original Bill cast its net too wide as regards Part 2. My noble friend Lord Lang of Monkton said it cast its net too narrowly in relation to Part 1, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, put forward an effective analogy about the trawler, which was rather interesting. Clearly we are swimming in rather deep waters here, and the Government are as well. None the less, the net was cast too wide in relation to Part 2. Sensibly, therefore, the Government have already recognised this and made some amendments in the other place. The definition of controlled expenditure, which was a matter of contention, is now back to what it was in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which has worked well in two general elections, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, mentioned.

I remain concerned about Clause 27 and the lowering of the threshold for registration. This seems unnecessary. The big spenders—the Bill is about them—already register and are caught by the reduced cap and the wider scope of what is to be controlled, but why go so far down the route to seek to register groups that are spending £5,000 in England and £2,000 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? You do not get a lot of campaigning for £2,000 these days. These are the “little platoons” that Edmund Burke talked so evocatively about, and they must be treasured. It is in everybody’s interest that my noble friend the Minister looks at this again. If the Government went back some way, at

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least, towards the Act of 2000 in this respect, as they have with the definition, they would attract a great deal more support than they have at the moment. It would be a wise move. It would not detract from the central purpose of the Bill and would reassure many people who currently are unnecessarily worried.

I hope that the Bill becomes law, because it will improve our electoral arrangements—and they need improving. Only in the past 18 months, we have legislated for the first time in this country to have individual electoral registration, as opposed to household registration. We will remain way behind most other western countries in that respect until that comes into place—hopefully, if the work can be completed in time, for the next general election.

The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, has put out some interesting proposals in an all-party draft Bill on party funding—which, I remind the House, is an unresolved and difficult issue. Again, if I may skirt around an area of controversy without actually entering it, I hope that before too long I will see the day when every vote cast in a general election is of equal value.

That is what I wanted to say on this occasion. I look forward to contributing to other debates on these matters.

5 pm

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, it falls to me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Horam, on an excellent and thoughtful maiden speech. We were, of course, fellow Members of another place—at least, intermittently so—between 1974 and 2001, during which period he had the highly unusual record of serving as both a Labour transport Minister and a Conservative health Minister. I respected him as someone who followed his personal convictions and was brave enough to do so when that meant reconsidering his party affiliation. He brings a breadth of knowledge with him to the Chamber and has done so today. He will undoubtedly contribute considerably to our debates in future. If he were ever again, in the fullness of time, to feel restless, there is always a warm welcome on the Cross Benches.

Turning to the Bill, I declare an interest as a patron or vice president of a number of organisations involved in campaigning on disability issues, including Mencap Cymru and Autism Cymru, details of which are in the register of members’ interests. I have grave misgivings about several facets of the proposed legislation, which seems to be a jumbled assortment of half-cocked ideas being rushed through Parliament without adequate consultation with those bodies which will be affected by it, particularly in the voluntary sector. It also seems to have a party-political agenda in the way that it aims to impose rules on trade unions in a manner which is perhaps geared to creating some mischief.

I first focus my remarks on the lobbying aspect of the Bill. Let me make two things clear. First, lobbying undertaken in an open, transparent and responsible manner is an essential ingredient of the democratic process. Secondly, it can be of great assistance to those in Parliament who have to address issues about which they may not have detailed personal knowledge or experience. Any restrictions placed on the ability of

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those affected by government decisions to present their case to decision-makers in the most effective manner is, I believe, an infringement of liberties. In the same way as those wishing to access justice through the courts need the help of professional lawyers, so those wanting to convey to Parliament and the Executive their opinions about proposed government action may need the help of professional consultants who know, from experience, the best way to get a message across to those in power.

I was a Back-Bencher for 27 years, and I know how valuable it was for me to have information presented coherently and concisely from both sides of an argument. It helped me to make an informed judgment on those many matters about which, inevitably, I did not have detailed personal knowledge. For example, when I was serving on a Standing Committee scrutinising European Commission proposals which impacted on economic, environmental and social dimensions in these islands, I could not have done my work without the help of such a consultancy, about whose assistance I obviously had to make a declaration, but that would not be permissible under today’s rules. Without that help, I could not have continued as a member of that committee, as the volume of paperwork that had to be scrutinised each week was enormous. I benefited from its research support, but I always made my own judgments, sometimes contrary to its perspective.

MPs are generalists. If they have specialist knowledge, it will be in only a small area of the wide range of policy on which they have to express an opinion. Responsible lobbying is an essential ingredient to make the legislative system work. However, it has to be responsible, and while the majority of lobbying consultancies no doubt undertake their work in a scrupulous manner, there is clearly scope for abuse. That is why we need a legislative framework within which they can operate, a framework which is open and fair to those wishing to influence decisions, one which applies to all lobbying organisations, one which is fair to the Executive and legislators who have to take decisions, fair to those who work in the lobbying industry and fair also to the general public, including those interests which may not command the resources to access professional lobbying but whose viewpoint may be equally valid. It is against the background of those considerations that I shall approach the details of the Bill at a later stage. However, I make it absolutely clear that I support a rigorous, transparent system of registration, provided that it is equitable and comprehensive. I believe that this is in the interests of lobbyists themselves as well as of the democratic process.

At this point I want to flag up two or three matters which cause me concern. First, there is a differential in this Bill with regard to the constraints placed upon Ministers and Permanent Secretaries on the one hand, and on MPs on the other. What is the position of a Minister who is approached in the context of his or her responsibility as a constituency MP? Again, do these constraints apply equally to Ministers and senior civil servants in the devolved Administrations? I support the point that the Bill should be wider in its application with regard to civil servants and, most certainly, policy advisors—the infamous spads.

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Secondly, my main misgiving relates to the way in which voluntary organisations may seek to influence decisions so as to safeguard those on behalf of whom they campaign. To my mind it is unacceptable to regard these bodies as acting in a party-political manner and to constrain their freedom when they put forward a strong opinion on a matter which is in the political limelight, particularly at election time when policies are rightly under scrutiny. The testimony which many of us have received from the Royal College of Nursing is a case in point. I served for three years on its parliamentary panel, which was scrupulously balanced: two Conservatives, two Labour, one Liberal Democrat and one “odds and sods”, which included me. The RCN had a strong opinion, on behalf of its members, on government policy which impacted on the delivery of healthcare and associated services. It is not affiliated to the TUC, nor does it take any part in party-political arguments from a political viewpoint. It says in a briefing document which I imagine has been provided to most of us in this Chamber:

“We are deeply concerned by the provisions in Part 2 of the Bill, which will restrict the activities of organisations that seek to legitimately comment on and influence public policy in the run-up to a general election … As currently drafted, the provisions in the Bill may prevent us from raising important issues on behalf of our members if we reach the spending limit during the regulated period … The legislation would significantly restrict on the freedom of speech of organisations that have an essential and a legitimate role to play in a free democracy”.

Those are telling words that we should most certainly be taking on board.

The NCVO has stated,

“the Bill is incredibly complex and unclear. It may be difficult for charities and other voluntary groups to understand if any of their activities would be caught, and this runs the risk of discouraging campaigning activity”.

I urge the Government to suspend progress on this Bill after its Second Reading in order for there to be serious discussion on the advisability of progressing with Part 2 as it currently stands.

There are also sins of omission in the Bill. I see nothing here that will prevent political parties rewarding generous supporters with honours or even—it is alleged—appointment to this Chamber. When the two parties in government bring forward legislation to hamper voluntary organisations in the manner I have described, I believe it is quite cynical that there should be no tightening on those abuses within the political system. Parties plead that they cannot otherwise raise money to fight election campaigns, but there is a simple answer to that, which is to restrict the amount parties can spend on general campaigning in the same way as there are tight restrictions on spending on constituency levels, but that is not adequately covered in legislation.

Some would even advocate state funding of political parties as the answer to their cash-flow problems. To my mind, that would be an absolute outrage. At a time when vital services to vulnerable people are being cut because of the financial squeeze, it would be quite wrong to divert taxpayers’ money to prop up parties which cannot generate enough enthusiasm among their own supporters to fund their campaigns. Equally, there is a valid case to be argued that we must avoid having individuals and organisations buying influence from hard-up parties by contributing huge sums towards

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their campaigning costs. That is the balance that has to be struck and to which we shall undoubtedly return at later stages.

There are also questions relating to the way that this legislation impacts on the political process in the devolved legislatures of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and the degree to which there has been political consensus with political parties and campaigning organisations in those territories in regard to the Bill. Is it the Government's intention to invite the National Assembly for Wales to introduce its own legislation in this field and, if so, will the Government ensure that the National Assembly benefits from a transfer of powers order to give it the necessary legislative power to deal with those matters? I hope that this House will improve the Bill significantly during its passage and that the Government will listen, particularly with regard to Part 2.

5.11 pm

Baroness Jay of Paddington (Lab): My Lords, I echo the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, in welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Horam, and congratulating him on his maiden speech. I rise to report briefly on the scrutiny of the Bill undertaken by your Lordships’ Select Committee on the Constitution, which I have the privilege of chairing. The House has already heard some powerful points from one member of the committee, the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton, and a further speech will be made by the nobleLord, Lord Hart of Chilton. I hope that between us we will cover the major points that the committee has given in its report.

We reported on this Bill last Friday, 18 October, having discussed it at our meeting on 16 October. Somewhat unusually, we decided to publish our report rapidly and before Second Reading, rather than wait as we sometimes do to propose specific areas for amendment at the next stage. The committee felt that in this case the House should be made aware immediately of our significant concerns about the content and overall handling of the Bill.

The Constitution Committee accepts the view, widely promoted this afternoon, that there is general cross-party support for achieving greater transparency—a greater showing of the light, as it has been called—on lobbying, a matter that has been discussed for many years. We also welcome the amendments that have been made in another place to establish a clearer view of the position of Members of both Houses.

Overall, however, we are unsure that the Bill will achieve proper improvement in the immediate concerns of the general policy. We have specific doubts both about the clarity of the Bill’s provisions and about the potential effects of aspects of the Bill. Some of these might have been addressed if, as has been repeatedly said this afternoon, the Bill had not been introduced in what we describe in the report as “undue haste”. That obviously led to difficulties of scrutiny, with no pre-legislative scrutiny and an inadequate concern for time in the other place.

As your Lordships will be aware, over a number of years the Constitution Committee has published a series of reports—under different Governments, I point out—stressing the importance of effective scrutiny in

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legislation not only to enhance the reputation of Parliament but to improve the quality of legislation. Perhaps I might take two minutes to quote, as we do in our current report, from those previous reports. For example, in

Parliament and the Legislative Process

, we noted that,

“subjecting … measures to rigorous scrutiny is an essential responsibility of both Houses of Parliament if bad law is to be avoided … Parliament has a vital role in assuring itself that a bill is, in principle, desirable and that its provisions are fit for purpose”.

In another report, from the Session of 2010-12, The Process of Constitutional Change, we reiterated that,

“if Parliament cannot be seen to be scrutinising proposals with the thoroughness they deserve, public confidence in parliamentarians is likely to be further undermined”.

The committee feels that this is particularly important when dealing with matters that affect the constitution. We have emphasised that point in a succession of reports, which I have quoted from very briefly.

Here we come to the nub of the problem with the current Bill that the Constitution Committee is most concerned about. A Bill that directly affects the electorate’s ability to engage with the Government and to take part in political campaigning must challenge the fundamental common-law right to freedom of political expression. There could not be a clearer constitutional principle and, as the committee report states, given these factors it is essential that the process accords with the highest standards. However, the committee concludes that, given the lack of external consultation, the absence of a White Paper or a draft Bill and the hasty proceedings in another place, the handling of the Bill to date is a matter of significant concern.

To move to our scrutiny of the policy substance of the Bill, in Part 1 we share the generally expressed concern about the narrow scope of provisions on the work of lobbyists. Again, I quote from our report, which in turn mentions the report by our fellow committee in the other place:

“The Government’s lack of engagement with the industry is reflected in a poorly drafted and narrow definition which does not accurately reflect the work undertaken by lobbyists”.

As with many speakers this afternoon, though, it is of course Part 2 that has most concerned the committee as far as the policy is concerned. I remind your Lordships that the proposed amendments to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act that tighten and extend various controls, including financial controls, are in Part 2. We have heard a series of vivid examples and explanations from various speakers today about the impact of these controls and extended financial regulations on the charity sector and on the voluntary sector in general. The potential limits on their campaigning activities have been described as “chilling” and as a chilling threat to their constitutional rights. Your Lordships’ Constitution Committee notes that the House must ensure that the Bill gives absolute and appropriate justification for interfering with that right. In the committee’s view, the Government had yet to offer such a convincing justification for extending the control on third parties and I suggest to the Minister—although obviously this is a personal view, as the committee has not met to consider today’s speeches—that that justification still has yet to be heard.

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We conclude that your Lordships will wish to consider whether extended control is really necessary, given the particularly serious implications for a basic constitutional right. This is the question of achieving the balance that several noble Lords have referred to today. In consideration of the Bill, as the House has heard, the House has the advantage of several relevant parliamentary reports, including the very trenchant findings of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in the Commons, the report of the Joint Human Rights Committee, which my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws has referred to, and that of the Commons Committee on Standards. All these reports share a similar disquiet about the way in which the Bill has been handled and serious concerns about its content. I hope that the combined authority of those committee reports, together with your Lordships’ own Constitution Committee report, will give the Government pause and encourage Ministers to listen very carefully to the debates in this House.

5.18 pm

The Earl of Clancarty (CB): My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Horam, on his maiden speech, which was an extremely useful contribution to this debate.

My comments will be directed mainly at Part 2. This Bill has been driven by two engines, self-absorption and self-regard—self-absorption because it wilfully misunderstands and ignores both the way in which campaigning works and its meaning to society, and self-regard because it assumes that government and party politicians are more important than public discussion. I fear that the Bill will put Westminster further into a bubble.

There is a huge difference in kind between lobbying carried out on behalf of commercial industry, which ought properly to be the subject of Part 1, and campaigning on issues of public concern without thought of financial gain, which becomes a target in Part 2. The Government need to recognise that the spectrum of charities, pressure groups, demonstrators and the like together represents one of the significant voices by which the public are heard. To curtail these activities, as many campaigning groups fear will happen, will curtail the people’s voice, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby has already suggested.

Politics does not stop at Westminster Bridge, yet with the Bill the Government are acting as though that were the case. Governments always say that ordinary people should be more involved in politics, but they already are—just not necessarily in party politics. As Justine Roberts of Mumsnet said, commenting at the launch of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, chaired by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries,

“ordinary people speaking up and getting involved in the political process makes for a healthier democracy”.

The Government need to recognise that most charities and campaigners are political—sometimes with a small “p”, but often with a large “P”, because party politics can be the means by which issues raised by charities are dealt with and sometimes resolved, which is what makes the critical wording,

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“reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success”,

of parties or candidates so problematic for every charity.

It is a natural part of the process that all campaigning groups will wish to find supporters in Parliament who will promote their cause. However, the big difference between parties and their associated organisations on the one hand, and charities and campaigning organisations on the other, is that campaigning organisations follow the issues and support for the issues that they would wish to raise in Parliament, not the party. Incidentally, that is why the Cross-Benchers, who are independent of parties, play an important role in bringing so many of such issues to the attention of Parliament.

The ideal, of course, would be that support for a cause has cross-party support, although this is not always possible. The great majority of campaign groups will be rightly resentful of being tethered through registration to a party political post when in reality, in the longer term and in the broader context of a campaign group’s aims, this is invariably not the case. Friends of the Earth put this very well when they say,

“we never support one party or candidate over another, and never tell supporters or the public how we think they should vote. But we do say what we think about important environmental policies that politicians and political parties also have an opinion about”.

One of the problems with Part 2 of the Bill appears to be not just fears about whether you will be caught out by it, but the uncertainties about what it is intended to achieve. Big Brother Watch, English PEN and others have said that for many charities,

“self-censorship is an inevitable consequence of the bill as it stands”.

If the Bill goes through as it is, it will be destructive both for groups and for our democracy. A year is a hugely long time for campaigning organisations to be effectively out of action, when in the lead-up to an election precisely the opposite ought to be the case.

What about the role of the press during this period? Presumably it will then have a free hand in this regard, although to be consistent the Government ought to restrict the press as campaigning organisations as well. I am not in favour of that. In the lead-up to an election there should be a properly healthy public discussion of issues and policies, including the views of both a diverse press—ideally—and campaigning bodies, running alongside each other.

Campaigns develop and grow organically, often starting from small groups. For some organisations, artificially to stop campaigning for a year would be a body blow, because campaigns are built on momentum. Other campaigns are time-sensitive, and one can all too easily see the Government of the day pushing through contentious decisions during this period—for example, beginning construction work on a nuclear reactor—under the radar, as it were, without public discussion or protest.

There is a part of me which says, perhaps against my better instincts, “Bring on this silence for a year”—which is what will happen if the Bill passes as is. Perhaps we would see the emergence of quieter voices, more non-professionalised campaign groups staffed by volunteers operating at low cost—except that volunteers are to be counted towards costs, and it will be very

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difficult for any organisation to operate within the extremely low thresholds that the Bill sets. What we would more likely see is more direct action and more and more outrageous ways in which some groups will draw attention to themselves.

I cannot help but think of the group Femen, which we learnt last week is setting up a London branch. Without suggesting in any way that that or any other group has any intention of breaking the law, I suspect that such a group would never contemplate registering with the Electoral Commission. It would argue that to do so would be to defer to a patriarchal and authoritarian system. Many might think that it would have a point. The key point here is that no Government should try to put a lid on the public voice, which the charities and campaigning groups represent. Indeed, it is, in the long run, unrealistic to do so because you cannot put a lid on boiling water without the steam somehow, in the end, finding a way of escaping.

Many of the great social reforms of the past have come about thanks to the tireless work of people outside the mainstream, who felt that this was how they could best serve their country. Politics at Westminster is not a one-way street and campaigning organisations are an important part of the process. Indeed, their role within the political process is often underestimated by Governments and sometimes wholly ignored—I can think of one recent example during the passage of a Bill.

My strong preference would be to see this Bill paused. Part 2 should certainly be rejected because it is unnecessary and fundamentally misconceived. Any reform that the Government wish to undertake should be far more considered and consulted on.

5.26 pm

Baroness Pitkeathley (Lab): My Lords, I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Horam, on his maiden speech, and by drawing your Lordships’ attention to my interests in the register, especially to my roles as vice-president of Carers UK and as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Civil Society and Volunteering. I hope that I might be permitted to record my disappointment that neither of the Ministers on the Bill is currently in the Chamber.

I will concentrate on Part 2 of the Bill, and I will speak personally. As far as I am aware, none of us knows how we become a Member of your Lordships’ House—the reasons we are chosen and so on. However, I have a pretty good idea why the honour was conferred on me. It was because I was a campaigner and lobbyist—rather a successful one, I would suggest. I was chief executive of a charity whose raison d’être was lobbying and campaigning in pursuit of policy changes for carers.

Let me take noble Lords back to the mid-1980s. The word “carer” was unknown; it was frequently misspelt as “career”. Nothing of what we now take for granted about the issue was known. We had no numbers. Estimates were not believed. We had no idea about the range of activities that carers undertake, or the distress that caring can cause. There were few organisations that dealt with caring, no helplines and no legislation. No attention was paid to carers at all. It is hard to

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believe now, when the word “carer” is added to practically every document coming out of every government department—and sometimes, I think, every sentence of every document coming out of every government department. Think of the Care Bill and the focus on carers’ rights. Think of what we now know about carers for o1der people, young carers, parent carers, carers in the benefits system, carers in employment and so on. It is hard to imagine what it was like 20 or 30 years ago.

All that we have achieved for carers has been achieved by lobbying and campaigning by a registered charity, or by several charities working together. No Minister or department suddenly woke up and said, “Oh, sorry. This is a group of people whom we have been ignoring for years. We had better do something about it”. Of course they did not. They took notice because we drew attention relentlessly to what the situation was by focused campaigns, getting the media on side and getting carers to be willing to speak out rather than being a silent and hidden army. Figures on how many carers there are and how much money their contribution is worth did not come out of the blue. In fact, I remember successive Secretaries of State denying that the numbers of carers that I was suggesting even existed. We got the numbers because we ran a concerted campaign to have a question about carers included in the census, and then we used the figures, which surprised everybody—6 million, since you ask—at every opportunity.

Our campaigns for policy change were never more concerted and active than during election periods. I first attended party conferences in the late 1980s—all the party conferences, of course—and at the 1992, 1997, 2001 and all elections since, a carers manifesto has been produced and all political parties have been lobbied to make concessions for carers. A very important aspect of this work was the alliance that was formed to give the lobby the strongest possible voice. Originally, more than 20 carer, disability, older people and patient organisations came together to produce a manifesto. This made the call and the demands of the manifesto so much more powerful. Many of us have recently been in contact with the Care and Support Alliance, which played such an important role in both last year’s Health and Social Care Bill and the Care Bill currently being considered by this House. If each of those many organisations had had its costs counted, including its overall admin costs, I doubt whether they would have come together in such an effective way. Indeed, I am sure that they would not. The effectiveness of such coalitions has already been mentioned by several noble Lords.

What would have been the situation of carers if all these campaigns had not taken place? Eventually, what was a private trouble might have become a public policy issue—the one that we know so well today—but not as quickly or effectively, I would contend. Three Private Members’ Bills, a national carers strategy, the Standing Commission on Carers, and the Law Commission report that led to the Care Bill all came about as a direct result of regular lobbying and campaigning, much of it focused in election periods. I might add that the tradition in the United Kingdom of campaigning charities effectively lobbying for changes

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in policy is the envy of the world—and I do not exaggerate that, as I know it from my contact with emerging carers movements in many other countries throughout the world.

Of course, we have to emphasise that this is politically neutral campaigning, which requires a degree of political sophistication to bring about. Is it that political sophistication and political nous that frightens the Government and makes them put in place this sledgehammer of a Bill to crack what is, at worst, a very small political nut as regards charities. The Bill surrounds charities with an unwarranted amount of bureaucracy, as noble Lords have pointed out, while at the same time not being nearly strong enough with the real culprits, who should be addressed in Part 1 of the Bill.

I use the issue of carers as an example of what will be lost if the Bill goes through in its current form, because it is the one I know best. But there are dozens of others, as is apparent from the huge amount of correspondence that your Lordships have received on the Bill—from climate change to child abuse, through every variety of charity. That would not have come to public attention if it had not been for the efforts of charities, acting singly or in alliances. I am baffled as to how any Government who have sung the praises of the big society and repeatedly placed emphasis on the importance of the charitable sector can put before us a Bill so ill thought-out and with so much potential to stifle the voices of the disadvantaged, and ignore groups and issues that are the very essence of democracy.

If you really want to engage with charities and the voluntary sector, as this Government constantly assure us that they do, you cannot simply put them into the role of service providers, effectively gagging them because they are too dependent on contracts to utter a breath of criticism. What has happened to the Minister’s call, made so trenchantly before the election, that the charities should,

“keep our feet to the fire”?

I quote him directly. Is that to be interpreted as keeping their feet to the fire except in an election year—and only if you keep the costs down to the level that they have set?

Will the Minister take this opportunity to answer the many questions that are being asked? For example, what exactly constitutes campaigning? Does it include taking part in policy discussions or doing research on issues such as poverty, and publishing the results? How are partnerships and alliances to be defined, and their expenditure costed, without huge administrative burdens on already cash-strapped organisations? What is the Government’s reaction to the legal opinion that says that the Bill will restrict organisations’ ability to engage in campaigns or policy debates and will insulate the Executive from criticism? Above all, why the rush? There are so many problems with the Bill, and so many possibilities of unintended consequences—I give the Minister the benefit of the doubt and do not accuse him or the Government of sinister motives, though many might—that surely the right thing to do is to start again, or at least to pause and put the Bill through the sort of scrutiny that a pre-legislative process would have provided. Starting again would be a sign

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not of weakness but of a Government who have the courage to seek and take notice of the opinions of the society that they represent.