Greens back repeal of the lobbying act

Co-leader Caroline Lucas says it has a detrimental effect on legitimate charity campaigning

Caroline Lucas
Caroline Lucas

The Green Party has backed calls to repeal the lobbying act after more than 50 charities wrote to six party leaders about the act’s "chilling" effect on political debate.

Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Greens, said today that she supported repeal of the act, citing its detrimental effect on legitimate charity campaigning in the run-up to tomorrow’s general election.

The legislation sets spending limits and makes it a legal necessity for all organisations that spend more that £20,000 in England or £10,000 in Wales on regulated campaigning prior to an election to register with the Electoral Commission.

The election spending rules apply for the year before an election and have been retrospectively applied by the Electoral Commission to the year before 8 June, the date of the snap election.

Lucas said: "I opposed this legislation when it came before parliament and I oppose it now. It is disturbing to hear that many charities have altered or reduced their campaigning activities before the election as a result of the lobbying act.

"The Green Party wants everyone to have a voice, and charities have a vital role to play in speaking up on behalf of those who have the greatest needs and yet are often unseen and unheard.

"The act should be scrapped immediately and the half-baked lobbying register replaced with one that properly shines a light on who is lobbying whom and what they are being paid."

The Green Party is a long-term opponent of the lobbying act, calling for its repeal in its 2015 general election manifesto.

The Green Party’s statement comes after a letter coordinated by Friends of the Earth and signed by 53 charities called for the repeal of the lobbying act.

The letter said that some charities had reduced or altered their campaigning activities because of the act, and that it was placing an "enormous administrative and financial burden" on the charity sector.

In their election manifestos, the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party said they would repeal the act, but there have been no commitments from the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats or Plaid Cymru to make any changes to the existing legislation.

Several prominent people in the charity sector, including Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, and Sir Stephen Bubb, former chief executive of the charity chief executives body Acevo, have told charities to speak out more in the run-up to the election because their activities are unlikely to be affected by the act’s restrictions.

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