Government right to exclude charities from lobbyists register, Acevo head says

Voluntary sector campaigning should not be 'lumped together' with that of private lobbyists on proposed register, according to Sir Stephen Bubb

Sir Stephen Bubb
Sir Stephen Bubb

Charities should not be included on a register of lobbyists alongside private lobbying companies, according to Sir Stephen Bubb, head of the chief executives body Acevo.

The government this week published its Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, which would introduce a statutory register for lobbying consultancies and tighter restrictions on the amount organisations can spend on political campaigning during election periods – charities are not included in the provisions.

In response to the bill, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations said it would publishe a code of good practice for lobbying and campaigning by charities because it felt the scope of the bill was too narrow.

Bubb told Third Sector he agreed with the government’s decision not to include charities on its register of lobbyists. "They made the right decision not to include us and I would resist any legislation to include charities," he said. "It would add an additional layer of red tape and bureaucracy."

He said there was a clear distinction between charity campaigning and lobbying, and said charities should not be "lumped together" with private lobbyists. "We don’t accept that we are lobbyists," he said. "There are lobbying companies set up to lobby. That is absolutely different from the work of a charity."

He said charities were already transparent in their campaigning activities. "Campaigning is very different from lobbying," he said. "If we accept we that we should be covered by a register, the danger is that we will get lumped in with those people.

"The Charity Commission has given clear advice on campaigning being non-party political and charities are clear their campaigning must not stray into party politics."

Bubb said he expected a "mixed response" from charities to the NCVO’s code of conduct proposal, but said organisations would want to make their own decisions.

"Some charities will want that, but I think others will regard it as a further burden," he said. "Chief executives will make up their own minds."

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