The government’s lobbying bill will not affect the ability of charities to campaign, Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, told MPs in the House of Commons yesterday.
The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill contains proposals to make it a criminal offence to spend more than £390,000 on campaigns that affect European, national and local elections.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations says it introduces a wider definition of election campaigning, which could catch many legitimate charitable activities.
"I happen to think that campaigning continues to be an entirely legitimate activity for charities as long as it fits with their charitable objectives," Hurd said in answer to a question from Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, during Cabinet Office questions yesterday. "That has always been the government’s position and I do not see this legislation affecting that."
Elphicke said he felt that "too many charities spend too much money on lobbying and on inflation-busting pay rises and bonuses for the boardroom, and that they ought to be concentrating more on the front line of helping people in need".
Anas Sarwar, Labour MP for Glasgow Central, speaking during the same session, asked whether it was acceptable that the bill would not prevent Lynton Crosby, a professional lobbyist and the Conservative election strategist, from advising the Prime Minister on tobacco policy, "but could stop an organisation such as Cancer Research UK campaigning about it".
In response, Chloe Smith, the political and constitutional reform minister, said the government had already explained that the bill would not affect or change the law concerning the political activity of charitable organisations in the sense of when they "support, promote or procure electoral outcomes".
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