Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts to review the workings of the lobbying act

The Conservative peer, who reviewed the Charities Act 2006, is to assess how well the act is understood by third parties and if the guidance is clear enough

Lord Hodgson
Lord Hodgson

The government has appointed the Conservative peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts to review the way lobbying act is working for third-party campaigners, including charities.

In a written statement to the House of Commons, the constitution minister Sam Gyimah said Hodgson, who carried out the review of the Charities Act 2006, would report on the operation and effectiveness of the provisions regulating third-party campaigning during the forthcoming general election.

The regulations are contained in part six of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which was amended by the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014.

Charities have said the lobbying act would prevent them from speaking out on many subjects for fear that doing so could be regarded as party political.

"The review will assess whether third parties understood the regulatory rules, complied with those rules and, where breaches of the rules occurred, whether appropriate enforcement activity has been undertaken by the regulator [the Electoral Commission]," Gyimah’s statement said.

He said the review should consider the "need to maintain public trust and confidence in the regulatory regime governing third parties and the need to ensure campaigning which seeks to influence voting intentions at elections is undertaken in an open and transparent way".

The review will consider whether the commission’s guidelines on the rules are clear, as well as the appropriateness of the registration thresholds and their effect on the number of third parties that register.

It will also consider the effectiveness of rules governing lead campaigners, where organisations have worked together in coalition to achieve a common aim.

The statement said that the Hodgson was due to produce his report by November 2016.

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the charity leaders body Acevo, said Hodgson had "great expertise in charity law and charity regulation".

Bubb said: "I hope the Hodgson review will note the evidence the Harries Commission has already collected on the lobbying act, which shows the ‘chilling effect’ on charity campaigning is even worse than expected.

"This law should be reviewed then repealed. It will be a lesson for the history books in how not to regulate civil society."

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