Labour manifesto pledges to scrap the lobbying act

Launched today, it also promises to create a lobbying register, bring local community services back in-house and close tax loopholes enjoyed by private schools

Jeremy Corbyn launches Labour's manifesto (Photograph: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
Jeremy Corbyn launches Labour's manifesto (Photograph: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

The Labour Party will scrap the lobbying act and put VAT on private school fees if it wins the next election, according to its manifesto.

But the document, which was launched this morning in Birmingham, also promises to bring local community services, some of which are run by charities, "in-house" should it win the general election on 12 December.

The party announced in the manifesto that it would take action to "free the voices of civil society by repealing the lobbying act 2014 and overhauling the rules that govern corporate lobbying".

The party said this would include a lobbying register covering in-house lobbyists and think tanks.

The lobbying act – its full title is the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act – 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 in the year prior to an election to register with the Electoral Commission.

A review of the act by the Conservative peer Lord Hodgson was published in 2016 but its recommendations have not been implemented. Charities have repeatedly called for the act’s repeal amid warnings that it has had a negative impact on their ability to campaign in elections.

The Labour Party has repeatedly pledged to repeal the act and the policy was included in its 2017 manifesto.

In an interview for the Third Sector podcast, which will be released next week, Vicky Foxcroft, shadow charities minister, said: "We will be repealing the lobbying act, something that I know charities have said makes it difficult for them to campaign, and we think that’s really important.

"We don’t want the voices of charities and the third sector not to be at the heart of our decision-making, and we think the lobbying act was wrong – it was gagging the voice of all of those grass-roots organisations that do fantastic stuff. We want to absolutely change that."

The 2019 manifesto also says the party will close the tax loopholes, such as that related to VAT, enjoyed by private schools.

The manifesto says: "We will close the tax loopholes enjoyed by elite private schools and use that money to improve the lives of all children, and we will ask the Social Justice Commission to advise on integrating private schools and creating a comprehensive education system."

Pubs will also be designated assets of community value, the manifesto says, allowing community groups first refusal on purchasing pubs that are under threat of closing down.

But in a section on local council funding, the party says it would look to bring local services back under local authority control.

Many charities have taken over council services in recent years, although the manifesto does not explicitly say whether charities will be affected by the proposals and which services would specifically be brought back under council control.

"Decades of privatisation and outsourcing have hollowed out council capacity, taken money out of communities and undermined democratic accountability," the manifesto says.

"We will act to bring services – from bin collections to management of local leisure centres – back in-house within the next parliament, improving service quality, saving money and ensuring the people who deliver vital local services are treated decently."

Earlier this year, Labour released a civil society strategy detailing its programme of reform for the sector, including more grant funding and time off for trustees.

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