Inquiry: Impact of the Lobbying Act on civil society and democratic engagement during the run-up to the 2015 General Election
The Fourth Report on the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement assess the impact of the Lobbying Act on charities and campaign groups during the September 2014 to May 2015 regulated period.
The report makes a number of recommendations that are intended to inform the actions of Government, parliamentarians and the Electoral Commission ahead of the devolved administration elections in 2016.
Repeal the Act
Part 2 of the Transparency in Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act should be repealed before the May 2016 devolved administration
If that does not happen before May 2016:
Suspension of the Act – The Act should be suspended for the duration of the 2016 devolved administration elections.
Amend the Act
Definition of Regulated Activity – The test for regulated activity should be amended to clarify that campaigning should be regulated only when it is clear that the subjective intention is to influence the outcome of an election, rather than to raise awareness and generate discussion amongst competing parties and candidates.
Registration Thresholds – The £20,000 threshold in England should remain but should be informed by a narrower definition and range of activities, including removing staff costs as counting towards regulated activity and shorter regulated periods, which is in line with the ‘long campaign’ period for candidates. Constituency spending limits should be removed.
Definition of ‘active supporter’ – Should be revised, in consultation with civil society organisations, to define what is meant by ‘active supporter’, based on the experience of
the Lobbying Act to date and organisations’ understanding of ‘active supporters’.
Campaigning together – Joint spending of up to £50,000 on a single campaign should be exempted from the working together rules.
Electoral Commission Guidance – The Electoral Commission should provide detailed case studies of regulated and non-regulated activity covering all areas of regulation.
The Commission is grateful to the very broad range of charities and campaign groups that have submitted evidence in evidence sessions and through a survey.