NCVO chief questions Charity Commission chair's comments on lobbying bill

In a letter to William Shawcross, Sir Stuart Etherington (pictured) says the sector is not as happy with the bill as the regulator's chair has suggested

Sir Stuart Etherington
Sir Stuart Etherington

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, has written to William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, questioning comments he reportedly made about the sector’s attitude to the lobbying bill.

Shawcross was reported to have said in response to a question at the Charity Law Association conference last week that most of the voluntary sector was happy with the changes to the lobbying bill that have been proposed by the government.

In his letter, Etherington says the NCVO has "serious concerns" about the impact the government’s Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill would have on charity campaigning and asks Shawcross to produce evidence to support his claim.

"These concerns are shared by our members and many other organisations in the sector," the letter says.

Etherington also reminds Shawcross that the NCVO expressed concerns last week that the government’s amendments to the bill would not be sufficient to protect charities.

"Unfortunately, the government’s amendments have not fully addressed the problems identified in the bill," the letter says. "In particular, there is still too much uncertainty and ambiguity in relation to whether or not charities and other voluntary groups would be caught by the new rules."

In the letter, Etherington asks Shawcross to provide the NCVO, which will be raising its concerns as the billcontinues its passage through parliament, with clarification of his statement "in order to ensure an informed debate in the House".

The bill is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords next week.

A spokeswoman for the commission said it would be responding to Etherington’s letter.

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