Lobbying bill hurts 'fundamental right to freedom of political expression', say Lords

A report by the House of Lords Constitution Committee also expresses concern that the bill was introduced too quickly, inhibiting the ability of MPs to consider it properly

Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament

A House of Lords committee has "significant concerns" about the lobbying bill because it interferes with the "fundamental common law right to freedom of political expression", it says in a critical report published today.

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, which is due to have its second reading in the Lords next Tuesday, contains proposals restricting political activity by third parties in the run-up to elections. Charities say the proposals will reduce their ability to campaign on legitimate issues.

The House of Lords Constitution Committee says in its report that parliament must ensure there is "appropriate justification" for any restriction on freedom of expression in the bill.

"We have several concerns about the bill, both as to its legislative process to date and as to a number of substantive provisions," the report says.

It also criticises the speed with which the bill has been introduced.

"The present bill directly affects the ability of people and organisations to engage with the government and to participate in political and electoral campaigning," it says. "Given these factors, it is essential that the legislative process accords with the highest standards. As such, the handling of the bill to date is a matter of significant concern.

"The bill was introduced with undue haste, leaving no opportunity for pre-legislative scrutiny and inhibiting the ability of the House of Commons to afford the bill properly informed consideration."

Baroness Jay of Paddington, chair of the committee, said in a statement accompanying the report: "We are concerned that the lobbying bill will not achieve its objectives of increasing transparency and restoring public confidence."

- For more on the lobbying bill visit our Big Issue

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