Lib Dem manifesto says party would consider whether the lobbying act strikes the right balance

The party would also encourage social investment and allow public interest local media outlets to obtain charitable status, the document says

The Liberal Democrats manifesto
The Liberal Democrats manifesto

A Liberal Democrat government would "consider carefully" whether the lobbying act struck the right balance in regulating non-party campaigning, encourage social action and social investment, and allow public interest local media outlets to obtain charitable status.

This is according to the party’s 158-page manifesto for the 2015 general election, launched today.

It says that as part of the coalition government, the party "passed a lobbying act to introduce a register of consultant lobbyists and curb the influence of special interest money in elections". It says the party would take note of the result of the review of part 2 of the act by the Conservative peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts.

The manifesto says: "We will consider carefully the work of the independent reviewer into the impact of third-party spending regulations to ensure the right balance has been struck. We will also remove the discrimination against third parties by requiring political parties to include the cost of staffing in their national expense limits in the same way as third parties now do."

It says that the register of lobbyists created by part 1 of the act but widely seen as unsatisfactory and too narrow would be strengthened and expanded.

The manifesto says the Lib Dems "recognise the importance of a plural and diverse media", and promises to allow "non-profit local media outlets to obtain charitable status where the public interest is being served".

The argument that charitable status should be available to certain news organisations, including local ones, has been around for several years, although in 2012 the government said it was "not currently inclined" to legislate on the matter despite calls from peers.

In the "Everyday Democracy" section of the manifesto, the party says: "We will encourage citizens to engage in practical social action, seeing government as an enabler and facilitator rather than just a commissioner and provider of services." The manifesto says the party would also promote social action and volunteering at school.

The same section says the party would "support social investment, ensuring charities and social enterprises can access the support and finance they need to develop and deliver innovative, sustainable solutions to challenges in their communities", and would "strengthen community rights to run local public services, and protect community assets such as pubs by bringing forward a community right-to-buy".

The manifesto says the party values "the important role the voluntary, independent and community sectors play in the life of our communities and in delivering public services" and that it would "continue our work to open up public procurement to small and medium-sized companies and to the voluntary sector".

The party says it would encourage mutuals, cooperatives – including energy cooperatives – and employee participation, and that it would promote "a new community banking sector to support small and medium-sized enterprises and social enterprises" and take forward work by the British Business Bank into the sustainability of community development finance institutions.

Other policies involving the voluntary sector include supporting public awareness campaigns around cancer, such as the existing Be Clear on Cancer campaign UK, supporting community services and volunteers working to combat loneliness, particularly in later life, and a new strategy involving not-for-profit advice agencies.

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