I have probably said more than enough, but I hope that when we get to Committee I will not have to put down 100 amendments because it would be a waste of time compared to a much more fundamental review. My last word is to remind the Minister that charity law is severe. A charity can exist for charitable purposes only. It can act only to pursue those charitable purposes. It can act only in the public benefit. We do not need this.

8.47 pm

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, I begin by declaring my interests. I have worked both as an executive and as a volunteer in a number of charity and voluntary agencies. I was director of VSO, director of Oxfam and more recently I am a trustee of Saferworld. My activities have mainly been in the international realm but also very much nowadays in the environment role as well.

I think that we are in a grave situation tonight. My noble friend in winding up what I thought was a very good opening speech, promised that we would work constructively and hard to try and make this a better Bill. I hope that that is possible; I have some doubts. The Government will have to do a lot of work to persuade us that we can make this a better Bill because there is tonight’s well argued issue about the complete incompetence and failure to think through and to analyse the consequences, and the unintended consequences, and how they will be dealt with. There is also a question about the underlying purpose of the Bill. At best that could be crudely party political and at worst it could be quite sinister. I have done a lot of work in the North Caucasus region and Russia in recent years and I am horrified to be looking at what is being proposed here and seeing how it relates to what is happening to civil society in Russia.

At times like this it is important to go back to the grassroots and listen, and I am going to ask the House to bear with me while I do that. In all the plethora of representations that have been made to us, there is one that has registered strongly with me. It is from the Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service, and other noble Lords may have seen it. I shall quote from what the council says:

“It isn’t clear which elements of our work could be classified as campaigning. For instance, we are involved in research on the impact of welfare reforms. Is that campaigning? We regard campaigning as one of our legitimate efforts, as our focus is about using voluntary and community action to improve the lives of people in Newcastle. It would be impossible to designate/attribute an economic value to this element of our work. There would be

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potentially disproportionate amounts of administration involved. The Act would effectively be a deterrent as there could be confusion over what was classified as campaigning. Obviously we are bound by Charity Law and do not engage in party political campaigning, but we have signed up to campaigns previously which want to change or strengthen policy during election time, eg support for housing homeless people”.

At this point I want to make my own intervention and say that I really do not understand this nonsense about the election period. If there is a valid role for voluntary agencies and charities in informing the public, it can be particularly important in an election year. The parties have to take into account the realities that are being beamed at them from the voluntary sector. I shall continue the quote:

“(Shelter Campaign) or addressing Child Poverty (Child Poverty Action Group) and general anti-poverty work”,

are all among the council’s concerns. It goes on by saying:

“It is sometimes difficult to attribute exact staff costs to different workstreams. Would we be deterred from joining in partnerships and working in collaboration with others as it wouldn’t be clear if a joint piece of work was subject to the new Act and we could be unintentionally drawn into this? As part of our general work, we try to engage in public policy discussions, this could inhibit us from doing so in future. For instance, we promoted the hustings sessions around the election of the Police and Crime Commissioners locally; in particular the sessions aimed at the voluntary sector. Would this count as campaigning under the Act in the future? … currently we are involved in the Living Wage Campaign; the Who Benefits campaign; doing studies on the impact of government policy on our members ie other local charities; working with disability charities looking at how to minimise the impact of welfare reforms on their users; doing studies on local organisations to improve the case for funding voluntary and community organisations. All these pieces of work fall well within our charitable objectives. All of these could fall subject to the Act”.

I see the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, shaking his head. The noble Lord and others have to face reality. Whatever was intended, the perception is that this is going to happen, so to rush this Bill through without having had any consultation with the organisations concerned is a political and constitutional disgrace. What these remarks indicate is how important it is to consult, so that you have the good will and involvement of the people who are doing the work at the front line; not pontificating in this House, but actually doing the work at the front line. I am absolutely dismayed that this Bill is before us without consultation, but I am not surprised. It is all too characteristic of the arrogance which is around: “We know and we can do it”. I am afraid that for a sane, decent, modern society, we must have a government approach which says, “Here is a problem that deeply affects people. Here are real issues of proper accountability during elections and the duties and responsibilities of trustees”. How can we sit down together and find a solution that we are all happy with and which we see as constructive? That is the mature and self-confident thing to do, not this lack of self-confidence which means that things have to be driven through rather than gathering up and involving people in a solution that is wholesome and rooted in our society.

This issue of campaigning and charities is not new. I was director of Oxfam and I wonder how many people remember where Oxfam started. It started in the university church in Oxford in 1942. There was the threat of invasion, with everyone geared up to defeat

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the enemy. I was a youngster at the time and I can remember the signs and slogans for victory. There was a great atmosphere. A cross-section of society came together: academics—Gilbert Murray among them—trade union leaders and church leaders. They were deeply disturbed about the appalling famine which they knew was happening in Greece. They went to the Government and said, “We want to get relief to Greece”. The Government said, in effect, “You must be mad. Greece is occupied by the Germans. How can you talk about doing that in this context?”. They said, “It’s not the Germans we’re concerned about, it’s the Greek people”. The Government said, “Look, there’s a blockade of Greece. How can we break a blockade to get assistance through?”. So in 1942 they went out with a petition and gathered thousands of signatures in Oxford and beyond. They got the public’s support and went back to the Government and said, “We want to do something about these people in Greece”. The Government caved in and said, “Well, if you can organise something with the Red Cross and you do it through the Red Cross, we will let you do it”. How would that have happened if there had not been a determination—a conviction—to drive through the objectives which they thought were there in the organisation they were forming and to take whatever action was necessary to garner public support for what they were doing?

More recently, when I was director of Oxfam, I went on a visit to Latin America in the bad and ugly years—sinister and horrible years in many ways with the things that were happening. I was meeting our own people and the brave partner agencies with which we were working. I ended up in San Cristobal in Mexico. I met the brave Roman Catholic bishop of San Cristobal. He was a tough guy. Open-necked shirt, wooden crucifix, but my God, he was a strong man. He was frequently in conflict with the Government of Mexico because he was standing by the Indians in their terrible predicament in Chiapas. He was being threatened physically and verbally all the time.

We got into a very good conversation. I asked him whether he had a message he wanted me to take back to Oxfam and to the British people and he said that he had. He said, “You talk of your partners here. You talk to people here. You talk about them. How often do you talk with them and speak for them? I believe that solidarity is the real meaning of charity. You cannot be neutral. You have to stand up and be counted. You have to tell it as it is”.

That is an historic, inescapable duty and responsibility for those of us doing serious charitable work. Otherwise we are caught up in a conspiracy in which we are satisfied with treating symptoms; in doing so perhaps masking what is really wrong and failing to speak out on the underlying issues that arise out of our work. Of course, any charity and any voluntary agency campaigning must ensure that what it is saying is rooted in its own experience. That is not only right in principle but it brings strength to their campaigning because it brings the strength of experience.

If, intentionally or not, we are doing anything that is quenching the spirit of charities at their best—because advocacy can become the best way to serve the poor—we are doing the country a very serious disservice.

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8.59 pm

Lord Jay of Ewelme (CB): My Lords, I follow the noble Lord, Lord Judd, with as much trepidation as I did some 40 years ago when as a young civil servant I followed him round some rather poor parts of west Africa on a ministerial swing, a trip that I suspect may have influenced both him and me in spending a good part of the rest of our lives in dealing with development issues.

I would like briefly to comment on Parts 1 and 2 of the Bill, and on procedure. On Part 1, first, I echo what some others have said this evening: lobbying, whether by NGOs, churches or companies, can be a valuable, necessary and, indeed, inevitable part of our democracy. In my own experience, much legislation and some policies with which I have been involved have been brought forward without consultation and as a result have been flawed. I have to say that Part 2 of this Bill is rather a good example of that.

However, such lobbying must be open and transparent and must be made public. I am not talking about just lobbying by consultant lobbyists. Like others, I am puzzled by the Bill’s exclusive focus on consultant lobbyists. The coverage surely needs to be wider than that. I am also puzzled by the exclusive focus on Permanent Secretaries and Ministers. I have a certain respect for both Permanent Secretaries and Ministers but I am not naive and the focus surely needs to be much wider than that, and include political advisers, directors-general, directors and, for example, anyone in a team working on a new Bill who might be instructed to report any approaches from lobbyists to their director or director-general. The important thing is that this is done.

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD): I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord but does he agree that the Permanent Secretary is probably almost the last civil servant to be lobbied in a controversial situation?

Lord Jay of Ewelme: I entirely agree. Indeed, any lobbyist worth his or her salt is going to make quite certain that they lobby somebody slightly lower down the scale, and by the time the piece of legislation or the policy gets to the Permanent Secretary or the Minister, the damage may well have been done. I entirely agree with the noble Baroness.

In this context, I particularly liked the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Norton—if I have understood him rightly—of shifting the focus in this part of the Bill from the lobbyist to the person being lobbied, with some mechanism to ensure that that lobbying is made public when the Bill or the policy is made public. That seems a rather simpler approach than that in the Bill at the moment. I look forward to the Minister’s comments on that and I hope that that idea can be considered further.

On Part 3 of the Bill, if the aim is to catch the transatlantic political sharks of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, as they approach our shores, as seems to be the case, we must find some way of ensuring that our NGOs do not get caught in that net. I recognise that the Government have tried to reflect some of the concerns that NGOs have expressed but, as our e-mail inboxes have shown in the past

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few days, they have not succeeded. To leave open the possibility that NGOs decide not to continue their activity in a full year before an election or have to spend on complying with new bureaucracy time and money which donors rightly expect should be going to the front line—to the poor, the sick, the elderly and the homeless—is quite simply wrong and contrary to some basic constitutional principles of freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

On procedure, I much regret that the Bill was not subject to pre-legislative scrutiny. A Bill with clear constitutional—indeed, electoral—implications is just the sort of Bill that deserves and requires full and proper pre-legislative scrutiny. It is perhaps too late for that to happen now, but I ask the Minister to think seriously about ensuring that Part 2, at least, even at this late stage, gets the kind of proper consultation with those whom it may seriously affect that it so badly needs. That would surely be time well spent.

9.05 pm

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, this is the Bill that the Government told us would restore faith in politics, regulate and tackle abuses in lobbying and enhance our democratic processes. As we have heard so often in the debate today, it fails on all counts.

I am the last to speak in this debate before the wind-up speeches, so I am conscious of the old saying that everything has been said, but not yet by everybody. I hope that I can say something that will contribute to the debate, even with all the excellent speeches that we have heard this evening.

My last role in the Labour Government was as a Cabinet Office Minister with responsibility for these issues. I am clear that most lobbying involves citizens and organisations engaging in the democratic decision-making process of society; that should be encouraged rather than constrained. From the discussion I had with the lobbying industry in 2010, we were clear that all lobbying must be conducted appropriately; it must be open, transparent and accessible to all; and that either the industry took meaningful steps to regulate itself or the Government would do so.

Despite welcome progress, my view remained that the industry had not got far enough and that more significant changes would have to be introduced by government. Instead, we have in the Bill a backward step from the lobbying industry’s voluntary register. The Government proposals hinder and fetter the good and do little to regulate what could be bad. Are the public really crying out for changes to hinder or stop charities and campaign organisations from making their case and lobbying for their causes, or are the public deeply concerned about the access to government of large corporations and lobbying companies which do not even declare their clients?

The Bill does absolutely nothing to ensure greater transparency in the latter’s relationship with government. Despite great promises, there are so many exemptions in Schedule 1 that just a tiny minority of the huge lobbying industry will be included. Even for those few who are captured, there is no code of conduct for behaviour, no sanctions and no requirement to declare clients. The Government even failed to acknowledge

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that lobbying is a wider activity than lobbying just Ministers. What about special advisers? What about civil servants other than Permanent Secretaries? At times, all can be appropriately lobbied, and there is nothing automatically wrong in an outside organisation seeking a meeting with a senior civil servant on a policy issue or with the Minister’s special adviser, but any such meetings should be open, declared and not available only to a select few over a glass of champagne at the cricket, as some may recall from episodes of “Yes Minister”.

However, Part 2 is a deliberate and, as we have heard, chilling curtailment of the democratic rights of those with greater public support and trust: charities and wider civil society organisations. I chair a not-for-profit organisation and I am involved with a number of charities and other voluntary organisations that provide services but also undertake campaigning. Despite amendment, it is clear that the Government are seeking to curtail the activities of such organisations against the interests of the big society about which we used to hear so much from the Government, although I do not recall hearing much recently. If we want a vibrant and engaged civil society it must be one in which members of the public can engage freely and not be told by the Government where the barriers and boundaries are.

At the Cabinet Office, I made it clear that a Labour Government would continue to be a strong advocate for the campaigning role of civil society organisations. Their role as campaigners provides a voice for some of the most disfranchised, disengaged and vulnerable in society.

However, in the lead-in to the previous general election, the writing was already on the wall. Criticisms that,

“so much of the effort in some parts of the voluntary sector is devoted to campaigning”,

became part of the sniping from the then Opposition before the election. In his speech to the NCVO conference in February 2010, Oliver Letwin stressed that what he treasured about the wider sector of civil society was not its campaigning role, but its special contribution to change things and to solve problems. How can the sector change things if the Government stop and restrict its campaigning? That kind of view fundamentally misunderstands and misrepresents the inextricable link between changing things and solving problems, and campaigning to do so.

It is not that as a Labour Government we tolerated that challenging campaigning role—we actively encouraged it. I have to be honest—it is not always comfortable or easy for Government to do so, but I am absolutely convinced that in many cases it makes for better government and better decision-making. Indeed I would go further and emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale. If an organisation that provides services of support considers that changes to government policy could resolve or even just alleviate the problem it is dealing with, it has a responsibility to its service users, its supporters, donors and to taxpayers, to address that and to campaign to do so. To go even further, it has an obligation to not just spend money to deal with the problem—if it can identify ways to alleviate or end that problem, then it should campaign

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to do so. The idea that the Government should tell that organisation not to campaign but to shut up and spend the money, is totally obscene.

It was the Brazilian archbishop, Dom Hélder Câmara, who said:

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.”

I wonder what he would make of this Bill.

This Government talk about the big society on one hand, and seek to squeeze it smaller and smaller with the other. They must not curtail legitimate campaigning activity, or provide the opportunity for councils and governments to issue bad news and unpopular policies before an election, thus preventing campaigning against that policy; they must not stop organisations making their views known on party manifestos. The Government speak of engagement in civil society yet they are taking away the freedom and rights that strike at the very heart of our civil society.

Before the last general election, numerous charities and civil society organisations organised a series of hustings; I spoke as the Minister, as did my opposite number, the now Minister, Nick Hurd, and the Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Jenny Willott. We all went along to these meetings. They were challenging, they were campaigning, they pressed their views on us and they wanted to know our views. Would those hustings be allowed under this Bill, or would those organisations not be allowed to hold those hustings because that would be seen as campaigning too close to an election? What could be more democratic than engaging with campaigning and information at election time, with the hope of encouraging people to vote?

We have heard suggestions tonight, but we really have to wonder what this coalition Government are so scared of that they are desperate to use every possible measure to rush this Bill through before the next election. With no consultation and no draft Bill, as we have heard from our constitutional experts in the House, the Government have already been forced to make several amendments and they have not reassured the charities.

This is an undemocratic Bill and it is a sadly wasted opportunity. Instead of increasing transparency and restoring faith in the political system, instead of trying to encourage engagement, the Government have taken a giant step backwards. This Bill does the Government no credit and it goes against so much of what the Government used to claim they believed in. No wonder people do not trust politics.

Your Lordships’ House this evening has been almost entirely unanimous in its concern about, opposition to and dismay at this Bill. I hope that the Government have been listening to the very serious and heartfelt concerns that have been raised and that we are going to see some serious changes to this Bill. It will take a lot to make it acceptable to those organisations that do so much for our society and are being denied their right to influence Government.

9.14 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I warmly welcome the noble Lord, Lord Horam, and I congratulate him on his maiden speech. He has certainly participated

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in a brilliant debate on a bad Bill that is badly drafted and, as my noble friend so dramatically demonstrated, not easily understood.

The Bill does not deal with the problem it was designed to address and has a chilling effect on civil society organisations and charities, which are a cornerstone of our society, while purporting to solve a problem with trade unions that does not exist. Furthermore, as this is a constitutional Bill, it should have had pre-legislative scrutiny, and due process should have been followed, including proper consultation, as demanded by governmental procedures. I must ask the Minister: why the unseemly haste, which so many noble Lords mentioned? Why was there absolutely no consultation with the organisations that will be most affected by the Bill—the myriad organisations up and down the country which are the basis of our thriving civil society? Could it be that the Government were so sighted on their goal of silencing organisations that they might regard as potential critics before the next general election that they simply abandoned the processes upon which government and good governance depend?

The Minister cannot accuse me of taking a political stance because these points have been made by noble Lords on all Benches. That must be a strong signal to the Minister that there is something drastically wrong with the Bill. Out of 38 speakers, the Bill has only one fervent champion—the noble Lord, Lord Tyler—and perhaps three or four lukewarm supporters. In relation to process, we heard powerful speeches from my noble friend Lady Jay, chair of your Lordships’ Constitution Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, other members of the Constitution Committee and others of my noble friends who are members of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. When parliamentary processes are abused, especially in relation to constitutional Bills, Parliament itself is abused. To repeat the words of the Constitution Committee,

“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 Dalai Lama said:

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity”.

I suggest that lack of transparency, especially where access to power is concerned, is one of the reasons that people feel alienated from politics. Lobbying is a normal and an essential part of an active democracy; that includes commercial lobbying. However, it has been clear for some time that the professional sector of the industry needs to be regulated. Indeed, the Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, said that lobbying was,

“an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money”.

He was right. My party strongly supports a statutory universal register of lobbyists that covers all those who lobby, not just those working for consultancies. Sadly, the Government’s proposals in the Bill not only fail to deliver such a register but are a step backwards. As my noble friend pointed out, the proposed register would cover fewer lobbyists than the existing voluntary register set up by the UK Public Affairs Council.

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I would be grateful if the Minister could tell the House why the register that the Government propose is intended to apply only to those lobbying on behalf of someone else: that is to say, to consultant lobbyists rather than to all lobbyists. The consensus in this House, in the lobbying industry, in the voluntary sector, in the trade unions and among transparency campaigners is that this approach is too narrow. Why should in-house lobbyists, who represent around 80% of the industry, not be required to register along with all other professional lobbyists? Not only is this wrong, it is unfair; it discriminates against different types of lobbyists. The cosy relationship between government and the tobacco and energy industries will continue, one reason being that there is a fundamental lack of understanding in the Government about lobbying.

Furthermore, the proposals before us create loopholes that will be exploited by the unscrupulous. I share the puzzlement of the noble Lord, Lord Jay. Why is it that someone will count as a lobbyist only if they lobby Ministers or Permanent Secretaries directly? As many have said, anyone who has been in government, in the Civil Service or a lobbyist would agree that the best results often come from lobbying MPs and Peers, more junior civil servants—including those who work in UKRep—and, of course, special advisers. One just has to cite the case of Adam Smith and the News Corporation lobbyist, Fred Michel, which would not have been touched by the Bill. Of course, who is lobbying whom is important but the subject matter is also of importance.

Too many people in this country have lost trust in politicians and the political system. The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, spoke of the importance of young people taking an active part in campaigning as a path to engaging in democracy. In the most recent election, of the 18 to 24 year-olds who were eligible to vote, only 44% voted. A healthy democracy needs to be nurtured in order to thrive, and voting is crucial for legitimacy. It is a key part of a healthy society in which all citizens, not just the privileged few, have a say.

As the right reverend Prelate said, democracy is in crisis, and professional politics has meant that political energy has been quite rightly taken over by faith groups and by charities. As the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, said, the Bill puts politics further into the Westminster bubble instead of opening it out to the whole population.

We all recall the Prime Minister’s big idea, the big society, which seems to have disappeared from the Conservatives’ lexicon. It was not a big idea, of course, because millions of people in this country have always been active citizens. Charities are part of our DNA, and my Government worked closely with civil society and NGOs. Nevertheless, apart from concern about the increased burdens on civil society as a consequence of government cuts and withdrawing some of their obligations, I was glad that the role of civil society was being celebrated, and that participants were no longer regarded merely as service providers. It is astonishing that the coalition Government, whose Members in this House have strong links with hundreds of charities and faith groups, should seek to curb the work and to

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silence the voice of charities and others who wish to campaign, for a year before the general election. There has been much concern about this.

As my noble friend said, the Government are hosting the annual summit of the Open Government Partnership in London on 31 October, where participants will share experiences from their respective countries and provide real examples of how openness can improve public service, drive economic growth, reduce poverty and corruption and restore public faith in government. One of the sessions, possibly attended by the right honourable Francis Maude MP, is entitled, “Empowering Citizens: Transforming the Relationship between Citizens and Government”. Presumably this will follow the partnership’s vision of ensuring that Governments become more transparent, more accountable and more responsive to their citizens. That is contrary to the ethos of the Bill before us.

My noble friend Lady Pitkeathley gave the most stunning example of the beneficial results of campaigning by charities—that is to say, apolitical campaigning, which would not be possible under the Bill. My noble friend Lord Griffiths spoke with a passion that I feel.

Many organisations have been cited today with regard to Part 2 of the Bill, and I am grateful for the vast number of briefings received. My noble friend Lady Jay encapsulated many of the fears expressed by those organisations when she said that the Constitution Committee is concerned about the restrictions on the right to freedom of expression that will result from the proposal to limit third-party expenditure at general elections. We think that this constitutional right should be interfered with only when there is clear justification for doing so.

The Opposition requested and received two legal opinions on the Bill from a pairing of eminent barristers specialising in this field: James Goudie QC of 11 King’s Bench and Fraser Campbell of Blackstone Chambers. The damning conclusion of the legal opinion is that the Bill infringes both Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights on freedom of expression, and Article 11 on freedom of assembly and association. The lack of clarity surrounding Part 2 means that it is not sufficiently precise and accessible to enable an individual to foresee to a degree that is reasonable in the circumstances the penal consequences that breaching them would have. Furthermore, the provisions are judged,

“not necessary in a democratic society”,

because they are “disproportionate” and both,

“unduly burdensome and too wide”.

Large organisations are concerned about complexities, the tangle of red tape and the chilling effect, but the smaller organisations are terrified—for example, about the reduction from £10,000 to £5,000 of the threshold at which they would need to register with the Electoral Commission in England, and to £2,000 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. On its own, £5,000 is a lot of money for a small charity to spend, but, as has been pointed out, charities often work in partnership with others, and all organisations in a joint campaign are responsible for declaring all the spend above the threshold. The British Legion, writing about the cost of the increased regulatory burden, said:

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“Even the Legion, which is a relatively large charity, has no dedicated administrative support within its campaign team, and we do not believe that members of the public purchase Poppies in order to fund the servicing of such requirements”.

This is a costly bureaucratic nightmare, and charities and communities may either unwittingly break the law or be inhibited from campaigning in the public interest.

The excellent organisation cited by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, HOPE not hate, which does so much to promote peace among our communities and provides information about candidates standing for the far right in elections, would be restricted to a fraction of what the BNP could spend in any election period. Are the Government trying to suggest that this and similar organisations should form a political party in order to be able to campaign?

The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, chair of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, raised a vast number of questions on behalf of charities and campaigning groups, and explained their fears and complexities. I warmly welcome the initiative taken by the noble and right reverend Lord, and his colleagues, including my noble friend, which fills a yawning gap in the Government’s own procedures. They were able to consult a vast variety of NGOs and experts up and down the country, so why could the Government not do that? I very much look forward to the commission’s report and its recommendations before Committee. The lack of consultation is compounded in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where neither the organisations affected nor the devolved institutions were consulted. That is of particular importance in Northern Ireland, where civil society engagement is a cornerstone of the peace process, and is one reason why such great progress has been made and must be sustained.

As my noble friends have said, there is no evidence for why Part 3 of the Bill is needed, and no Minister has been able adequately to explain the reason. I almost feel sorry for the noble Viscount. He had to defend the indefensible on the shares-for-rights Bill, and now he has to find a reason for Part 3. As my noble friend Lord Monks said, since 2004 there have been no complaints to a certification officer from trade union members about the registration of their details, and from 2000 to 2004 there were just six complaints, of which five were thrown out. What, then, is the problem?

Seldom can a Bill have had so few friends—the only friends it has sit on the coalition Benches; or rather, the only friend—and seldom has a Bill had so many opposed to it. Seldom has a Bill raised common concerns and united the whole of civil society, including charities and community organisations large and small, trade unions, professional organisations, lawyers, professional lobbyists and their associations, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Constitution Committee of your Lordships’ House, the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee of the other place, the Financial Times and the Guardian. The vast majority of the committees, organisations and individuals have asked the Government to pause and think again. As the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said, the Government should do so before they inflict unnecessary damage on one of the jewels in our crown: the voluntary sector.

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It is clear from most of the speeches made today that there is strong support in this House for the Government to withdraw the Bill, consult and return with a Bill that is fit for purpose. The lobbying proposals should be revised and Part 2 should be the subject of cross-party agreement. These issues are too serious to be used as a political football. The problem that Part 3 is designed to answer must be identified before solutions are proposed.

There are fundamental lessons to be learned from the Bill. Pre-legislative scrutiny should be standard practice; Bills—especially constitutional Bills—must not be rushed through Parliament in order to fulfil a political objective; and consultation with those affected absolutely must take place. I trust that the Minister will give his assurance that this lack of respect for parliamentary procedures and the people with whom they should consult will not be repeated.

Most importantly, on behalf of all of the organisations and individuals affected, all of our citizens who lack trust in Parliament, politics and politicians, and the majority of noble Lords who have spoken today, I urge the Minister to pause, to withdraw the Bill, to consult and to return to Parliament with a Bill that commands the respect and support that these issues of fundamental importance to our democracy deserve.

9.28 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, this has been a vigorous debate with a wide range of opinions forcefully expressed around the House. First, the Government are listening and consulting, and we will continue to do so. We will take this carefully through Committee, and we are concerned to make sure that the Bill as it emerges from this House reassures the very evident concerns, particularly from the charity sector. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, rightly said that the charity sector perceives this as an attack. That is, by and large, a mistaken perception. However, of course we have to reassure people and make sure, as we take this Bill through the various stages, that we have a Bill that we are all happy with as it emerges from this House.

Let me take the three parts in order. First, on the lobbying issue, as a number of noble Lords said, lobbying is a legitimate activity. Indeed, it is central to any thriving democracy and is an almost universal activity. Almost every working day Parliament is being lobbied. Those who had offices on the West Front particularly enjoyed the London Gay Men’s Chorus lobbying us several nights in a row. We wished that they would come back more often. It was one of the most enjoyable bits of lobbying that we have had so far.

Part 1 is intended to focus on professional lobbyists, the skilled and the well paid, those who provide their services for hire. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, talked about lobbying companies which do not even declare their clients. That is precisely what Part 1 addresses to make sure that lobbying companies declare their clients. That is where we started out in our consultation in 2010-11. I regret to say that the various respondents to that consultation came back with a whole range of discordant and dissentious responses.

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The Government have decided to take the Australian approach to a lobbying register, which is to have a register of professional and consultant lobbyists, not a universal register.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: Will the Minister accept that if a Minister meets lobbyists of that sort, although there may well be a list on a website with their 40 clients, it will not tell anybody which client that Minister was meeting? All it will say is that those are their 40 clients. Anyone will still be in the dark about which client had set up that meeting with the Minister.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I take the point that the noble Baroness makes. She has said to me off the Floor of the House that this ought to be reinforced by making sure that in the notes of the meeting there is a reference to the subject of the meeting so that those in the press and outside who want to understand what happened are informed which of the clients the meeting was about. This is therefore a step towards transparency. It does not claim to provide complete transparency on all contacts between outside proponents of particular policies and Ministers or officials. If we were to do that, we would find ourselves with a huge amount of information of the sort that the NSA loves to collect for the United States, but might not be beneficial to British politics. If we were to include all lobbyists, as some of the answers to the consultation wished, and included all charity lobbyists, I think that the answer from the charities sector would also be very negative. However, charities do have lobbyists. For example, Oxfam has people who actively lobby the public and the Government. Therefore, we have to be a little careful over how universal one needs to be. That is the importance of starting—perhaps others will want to go further—with a register of consultant lobbyists and of their major contact with the Government.

The noble Lord, Lord Norton, suggested that we should start at the other end by asking all officials and Ministers to register whom they have met. I see no reason why, in a sense, as transparency develops, the two should not come together. I have just filled in my quarterly return of whom I have met, including a number of people who could be described as lobbyists. Indeed, Saferworld was one of those that I reported on for obvious reasons: as I represent the Foreign Office, I talk to Saferworld and other such charities. That is part of what we already do.

The question of how far down the list one should go and whether it should include special advisers has also been raised. That clearly is a question to which we will return in Committee, and I look forward to that debate. However, I am conscious that the major concerns are on Part 2, to which I now turn.

I assure the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, that a Keeling schedule will be available well before Committee for everyone who wishes to look at it. I say with due confidence that, since he first asked me that question, I have discovered what a Keeling schedule is.

Lord Rooker: With respect, that is a worry, because that is the kind of thing that the Minister should have been advised about before the Bill was introduced. For the Minister to say now—and I am not being personal

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about this—that he did not know what a Keeling schedule was when we have a major constitutional Bill, and it is the norm to do it this way and has been for a long time, shows a failure of those who have been advising Ministers.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: It shows my ignorance more than anything. The Bill team has a Keeling schedule, and it will be distributed. Of course, the Bill team has a Keeling schedule—it is part of what Bill teams have to do in preparing the Bill. Since this is a rather complicated amendment of PPERA, that is what we are into.

I stress, as has been stressed by a number of noble Lords, that this is an amendment to PPERA. It is about election law, not about charities law; charities are not the main target and not those mainly affected by it. The most recent Electoral Commission report on this said:

“The Commission believes that, where significant non-party campaigning takes place, this should be transparent and properly regulated ... We think these controls on campaigning that is not explicitly ‘party political’ are a necessary part of the regime. Without them, it would be easy to evade the rules by framing political campaigning in terms of policies. For similar reasons, we do not think the rules should exclude particular types of organisations, such as charities or voluntary bodies, as this would create opportunities for political campaigners to evade the rules and would reduce transparency. However, the necessarily wide scope of the definition of controlled spending makes it particularly important to consider the overall impact on campaigners of Part 2 of the Bill, including the registration thresholds and spending limits”.

That is what we will focus on in Committee—but it is correct that we should include this in the scope of the Bill.

I was quite surprised—

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: As the Minister has just said, rightly, that it is important to look at the effect on charities and campaigning organisations affected by the Bill, why did the Government not consult those bodies before bringing the Bill forward? The Minister said just now that now that they had had their Second Reading they were going to consult. Why did not the Government consult beforehand?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I am conscious of a number of meetings with ACEVO, the NCVO and a number of other organisations over the past few months—and we are continuing to consult them. So we are not just about to start; we have been consulting.

I was quite surprised that no one had looked at the list of registered third parties for controlled expenditure for the 2010 general election, which seems to be a relevant part of the background. There are 30 of them on the list that I have here; six of them are in the field of animal welfare, which is hardly surprising—and the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, is nodding at me as I say this. There are two major unions. Among others, there is an interesting body called the Young Britons’ Foundation. I Googled several of these bodies just to discover them, and perhaps I can read something for those noble Lords who think that American campaigning has not yet reached Britain. It says that the foundation,

“was launched in July 2003 at a conference of the Young America’s Foundation in Washington, D.C., and it has said that it aims to ‘import American political techniques into the UK’”.

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On the most recent knowledge that I have, its advisory board included,

“representatives of the Heritage Foundation … US Competitive Enterprise Institute and American Conservative Union”,

and a number of other, similar bodies.

Lord Greaves: I was very confused by the quote that my noble friend read from the Electoral Commission, which refers to “political campaigning”. The existing PPERA and the proposed wording as amended in the House of Commons on Report in this Bill do not refer to political campaigning at all. Clause 26(2)(b) now says that,

“the expenditure can reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success at any relevant election for … one or more particular registered parties … one or more registered parties”,

and so on. This is about electoral campaigning. It seems to me that the dividing line is between general political campaigning on the one hand and electoral campaigning seeking the success or non-success of a particular party or candidate on the other. What my noble friend has just read out seems to muddy the waters. This will be an absolutely crucial discussion in Committee.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I was about to come to precisely that distinction because it seems to me to be the nub of what we will have to discuss when we deal with Part 2. There is a line to be drawn between the promotion of policies and the promotion of the success or defeat of particular parties or candidates. Policing the line between informing and educating the public during a campaign, promoting particular policies during a campaign and, on the other side of the line, supporting or opposing particular candidates or parties during a campaign, is the point on which we need to focus during Committee and Report. I am concerned that this is not an easy line to define. We want to make sure that there is as small a grey area as possible. At the all-Peers meeting, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, quoted a leaflet which had been put round his constituency the day before he lost an election which had a very large headline saying, “We are not telling you who to vote for”, and then a lot of small print which did. That is the sort of thing that we will have to look at in detail.

This measure is not aimed primarily at charities. Indeed, of the 30 organisations on the list, three are the campaigning non-charitable associated bodies of charities, but none is a charity. Charities should not be caught by this measure. After all, charities law limits how far charities can become involved in partisan campaigning. Charities should be involved in political campaigning. I recommend that noble Lords look at the list to see how far we can come to an agreement on the borderline. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, talked precisely about the borderline between current activities and controlled activities, and the chilling effect of having an uncertain definition of that. However, that is where we are. From the discussions I have had with people over the past few weeks, I have the slight impression that a large number of charities had not actually read the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act until this Bill was

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produced. Having looked at the language of that Act, a number of charities are telling us that they are not happy with that language as it stands. We have entered a discussion that we should perhaps have had earlier. The Government started on the assumption that the language of PPERA was fine because we had—

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords—

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: May I just finish my point? We had been through two elections with that language and charities do not appear to have found it difficult. If charities are now telling us that they find that language difficult, clearly we need to have a rather different discussion. I give way.

Lord Lea of Crondall: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. He may not be able to answer my next point tonight. However, as I understand it, charities registered with the Charity Commission cannot be so registered if they have political purposes. Therefore, will the noble Lord comment on, or write to me, about what he means when he talks about charities having political purposes?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I hesitate to go into a definition of politics as the noble Lord, Lord Norton, will immediately correct me. The promotion of particular policies, particularly broad policy areas, is a natural and accepted part of what charities and faith bodies do. That is a normal part of civil society. Part of my puzzlement, in listening to one or two of the speeches tonight, is that civil society is itself broader than the charitable sector. There are campaigning bodies in civil society which are not, and should not be, charities. Charities promote particular ideas, developments and social objectives which are also unavoidably political objectives, but they are not necessarily partisan objectives. That again is the line that we need to draw. I note that the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, said that charities are already unhappy about PPERA. Having looked at it, there are a number of difficult questions that we need—

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: It might be beneficial for all of us if the Minister and his advisers were to say how far the Charity Commission guidelines fall short of what the Bill is intending to do. If there is no significant air between the two, we might all need to know that.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I accept—and have also had it said to me in the Corridors—that we need to make sure that the guidance from the Electoral Commission, the Charity Commission and the Government are all in very close harmony. That is another area that we are, of course, now looking at.

The time is late. I will come very briefly to Part 3. Again, I recognise what has been said powerfully by a number of noble Lords here with trade union experience. We will come back to this in Committee, so I will say simply that unions are a major and extremely valuable aspect of our economy and our society. They have

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changed through a number of amalgamations over recent years and the Government consider the question of how accurate the membership lists of major unions are—we are talking about unions with 1 million or more members—is an appropriate point to be regulated. However, I take all the points—

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, we are talking about unions with a membership of more than 10,000, as I understand it; that is what is in the proposal, not 1 million.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: However, we are not talking about the smallest unions.

I take the point from, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, about whether information given to the assurer or certification officer might fall into other hands. That is a large issue of data privacy—this was raised by another noble Lord—which raises broader issues that concern the Government across the board. I will give him my assurance now but I will also check back and make sure that there are cast-iron assurances that data privacy issues will be resolved. We will have—

Lord Whitty: I think it was my noble friend Lord, Lord Monks, who raised that point. The Minister has not yet said why the Government are proposing Part 3 of this Bill. There are all sorts of suspicions out there, some of which have been voiced tonight, including by me, but the Government have not told the House why they are proposing this part of the Bill.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Government are concerned that there is insufficient public understanding when, for example, a union calls a strike vote, that those being polled are those who are currently working. They wish to assure the members and others in society that the lists are accurate. This is not just for unions. Companies are also expected to maintain an accurate register of their members and shareholders and to keep it up to date. This will cover a range of different bodies. I give way once more and then we must finish.

Lord Lea of Crondall: Is the Minister aware that that is not the reason given in the explanatory document?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we will return to the explanatory document at a later stage. This has been an extremely vigorous evening. We look forward to several days in Committee and on Report. The Government will consult a range of stakeholders between Second Reading and Committee, and we will continue to consult between Committee and Report. This House will, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, assured me very vigorously, look in detail at the language of the Bill and also look back at the language of PPERA, and, we hope, produce something of which we can all be proud at the end of the day.

Lord Hardie: I wonder whether the Minister will address the concerns of local action groups, as opposed to charities.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I am sorry; I did not hear the noble and learned Lord.

Lord Hardie: I was asking about local action groups as opposed to charities.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, local action groups, if they are not campaigning for or against a particular candidate or a particular party, will not fall within the terms of the Bill.

Lord Hardie: The Minister obviously did not hear my speech. I referred to the situation where a local action group had a particular interest—for example, against the closure of a hospital or against, or in favour of, HS2, or other environmental situations. If

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one candidate supported that view and another candidate was opposed to it, that would be controlled expenditure. Is that to be stopped?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: In the case of Kidderminster Hospital, which I think was one of the examples quoted, there was indeed a candidate who was the Kidderminster Hospital candidate. That of course then becomes a much clearer case.

The hour is late and I should like, if I may, to continue these discussions in the Corridors between Second Reading and Committee.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at 9.51 pm.