Lobbying reforms should not stop charities speaking out, umbrella bodies warn

Acevo and the NCVO say a register of lobbyists would be welcome but that the measure should be proportionate

Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament

Charity umbrella bodies have urged the government to ensure that any reforms to parliamentary lobbying rules do not restrict the ability of charities to speak out.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, writing in The Daily Telegraph today, says that he and the Prime Minister, David Cameron, are "determined" to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists. His comments come after the peers Lord Cunningham, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and Lord Laird were accused of carrying out parliamentary work for outsiders for payment. All deny wrongdoing.

On Friday, the Conservative MP Patrick Mercer resigned the Tory whip amid claims he broke lobbying rules. He also denies any wrongdoing.

When it took office, the coalition government promised to create a statutory register of lobbyists to ensure that the practice was regulated. But more than three years later it has yet to fulfil that pledge.

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said in a statement that the government was right to return to the issue of lobbying regulation, but added: "Any measure must be proportionate and should not restrict the ability of charities to speak out on behalf of their beneficiaries. There is a clear difference between private firms lobbying for profit and charities’ advocacy in service of their public benefit mission, and any new legislation must recognise this distinction."

Chloe Stables, parliamentary and media manager at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said the introduction of a register of lobbyists would be "a big step forward in terms of transparency and openness". She added: "We think that many charities that systematically lobby government should be part of such a register, but there is a careful balance to be struck between transparency and a proportionate reporting structure. I’m not convinced that the proposals to date have struck this balance adequately."

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