Charities and campaigning groups urge party leaders to scrap the lobbying act

More than 160 charities and other organisations have written to eight political party leaders, calling on them to repeal the lobbying act in the first parliament after the election

Clegg, Cameron and Miliband: recipients of letter
Clegg, Cameron and Miliband: recipients of letter

A group of more than 160 charities and campaigning groups have written to the leaders of eight political parties, including the three main ones in the Commons, calling on them to repeal the lobbying act.

Under part two of the lobbying act, which was given royal assent in January 2014, campaigning organisations such as charities must register with the Electoral Commission as non-party campaigners if they spend more than a threshold of £20,000 in England, £10,000 in any of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland or £9,750 in a single constituency on certain regulated activities in the run-up to an election. The act expanded the list of regulated activities and lowered the upper limits for spending already outlined in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

As a result of the lobbying act, a number of charities have scaled back their campaigning activities, and some have complained about the Electoral Commission guidance on compliance with the act.

A small number of charities, including the League Against Cruel Sports, the RSPCA, the Salvation Army and Stonewall, have registered as non-party campaigners with the Electoral Commission.

The letter, signed by organisations including the charity leaders group Acevo, Oxfam and the international development membership body Bond, was sent yesterday to eight party leaders, including David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, the leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties respectively.

"We are writing to ask that you commit your party to repealing the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014, apart from the raised thresholds for registering with the Electoral Commission, in the first session of parliament after the election," it says.

The thresholds were doubled by the legislation from their previous levels, although this went alongside an expanded list of activities that count towards that threshold.

The 209-word letter highlights the substantial opposition to the bill in its passage through parliament and recent evidence suggesting that the act would make it harder for many charities and campaign groups to carry out their objectives.

The letter asks for the repeal of the act in the first session of parliament after the general election in May. This would mean the previous legislation coming back into force, although the signatories say this also needs review.

The letter says: "If the lobbying act was repealed, the previous inadequate legislation, the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, would stand. We ask that PPERA be reviewed and that new legislation be consulted on and brought forward within 18 months of a new government."

Other signatories include the Electoral Reform Society, Greenpeace, the National Union of Students, Friends of the Earth, the Ramblers, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Stop HS2 and 38 Degrees.

Labour has already pledged that it would repeal the lobbying act if it came to power in May.

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