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Lobbyists register should include charities, according to Democracy Matters

Response to Cabinet Office consultation argues for 'level playing field' across all professional lobbying

Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament

Charities should be covered by the proposed statutory register of lobbyists to ensure a "level playing field" for all forms of professional lobbying, according to the political education alliance Democracy Matters.

In a submission to a continuing consultation by the Cabinet Office on the proposed register of lobbyists, the alliance argues that charities should be subject to the same rules as private companies.

Leaving some organisations exempt could encourage "corporate or private interests" to fund charities or think tanks to lobby on their behalf, it warns.

"There should be a level playing field across all forms of paid-for professional lobbying, since otherwise lobbying activity is likely to avoid registration by moving to areas which are exempt," the submission says.

Substantial pro bono work conducted by professional lobbyists on behalf of charities and other organisations should be included, the alliance says, but smaller charities that do not employ public affairs professionals should be exempt from the proposed register.

Democracy Matters, which promotes citizenship and democratic reform, is made up of a number of civil society groups, such as the Community Sector Coalition and the local infrastructure group Navca.

It also includes the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which stated in its own submission to the Cabinet Office that charities should be excluded from the proposed regulation – contrary to the position taken by Democracy Matters.

The NCVO said that charities should not be discouraged from taking part in the political process by having additional administrative or financial burdens placed on the sector.

Democracy Matters argues in its submission, however, that the proposed register should be funded by the taxpayer: "The register should be publicly funded to ensure that there is no financial barrier to anyone wanting to lobby."

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