The Institute of Fundraising and the Direct Marketing Association are campaigning against the abolition of the edited electoral register on the grounds that it would damage charities' fundraising and their ability to comply with the Data Protection Act.
Earlier this month, the Government announced it would consult on the recommendation to abolish the register, made last year in a report on data-sharing practices commissioned by the Ministry of Justice.
The announcement of the consultation prompted Conservative peer Lord Norton of Louth to withdraw an amendment to the Political Parties and Elections Bill that would have abolished the edited register.
Forty per cent of citizens have exercised their right not to be included on the edited register, used by fundraisers and direct marketing organisations to acquire new names and check the accuracy of data from other sources.
Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the institute, said it had been lobbying against the abolition of the edited register. It would compile feedback from members, he said, and complete a cost-benefit analysis. Scrapping the register would hurt the environment as there would be more junk mail, he said.
Caroline Roberts, director of public affairs at the DMA, said abolition of the edited register would force charities to buy data from expensive alternative sources. She said they would have to store larger volumes of inaccurate information, possibly breaking the Data Protection Act.
Roberts said the DMA would contest the argument that the 40 per cent opt-out rate proved people did not want their details used in marketing. "There are other reasons why people might not want to be on the public record - for example, to avoid jury service," she said. "If you don't want direct mail, register with the Mail Preference Service."
During the Lords debate, Government minister Lord Bach said: "The Government understands the concerns around the sale of personal details. But we must not neglect the potential impact on charities. Direct mail is a significant form of recruitment for them, and they would face poorer-quality lists and lower response rates if they were unable to verify addresses."
Lord Hodgson told the House of Lords: "I am astonished by the amount of paper I have received from the Institute of Fundraising opposing this amendment."