Labour would repeal lobbying act, says leaked manifesto draft

The document says Labour would extend the Freedom of Information Act to cover private firms providing public services, but it is not clear whether this would apply to charities

The Labour Party is set to keep its long-standing pledge that it would repeal the lobbying act should it form the next government, its leaked manifesto indicates.

The draft document, which has been leaked to several national newspapers and published by the BBC in full, repeats the party’s promise to drop the controversial legislation, which it says has "gagged charities", if it wins the general election on 8 June.

"We will safeguard our democracy by repealing the lobbying act, which has gagged charities, and introduce a tougher statutory register of lobbyists," the leaked document says.

The line is identical to that which appeared in Labour’s manifesto for the 2015 general election, when Ed Miliband was party leader.

The draft document also repeats a promise from the 2015 manifesto to extend the Freedom of Information Act to cover private companies that provide public services, although it is not clear whether charities providing public services would be included.

The leaked manifesto also pledges to end rough sleeping, which it says has doubled since 2010 because of decisions made by ministers on housing and on funding for charities and councils.

It says a Labour government would introduce a five-year, £1bn "cultural capital fund" that would "upgrade our existing cultural and creative infrastructure".

The funding, which would be administered by the Arts Council, would "transform the country’s cultural landscape".

Free entry to museums would be maintained, the draft manifesto says, and Labour would invest in museums and the heritage sector.

"Conservative cuts to the Arts Council and local authorities have created a very tough financial climate for museums, with some closing or reducing their services, and others starting to charge entry fees," it says.

"The cultural capital fund will have a particular focus on projects that could increase museums’ and galleries’ income and viability."

The document promises to raise the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour by 2020, ban unpaid internships and abolish employment tribunal fees.

It pledges to renationalise the railways, spend an extra £6bn a year on the NHS and build at least 100,000 council and housing association homes a year by the end of the parliament.

Chris Walker, senior external relations officer at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said that, although it was good to see recognition in the document of charities’ right to campaign, it was important to note that most charities were unlikely to be subject to the restrictions of the lobbying act. 

"Simply repealing the act wouldn’t solve the problems in any case," he said. "The best solution would be for all parties to commit to implementing the recommendations of Lord Hodgson’s review of the act, which would provide clarity over the law on non-party campaigners."

Hodgson's review, completed last year, called for the scope of the legislation to be reduced to include only activity intended to influence how people vote.

The manifesto is due to be signed off today by the party’s National Executive Committee, which oversees Labour’s policy-making process.

A Labour spokesman said the party did not comment on leaked documents.

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