Lobbying Bill: unnecessary and unenforceable regulation

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act was passed on 30 January 2014 after significant controversy over its provisions.

In a final attempt to improve the law, peers narrowly rejected one amendment and drew on a second proposed by Lord Harries of Pentregarth.

Analysis of the Act

This briefing sets out:

  • How the law is different from the pre-existing The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000
  • How the law is different from the Bill originally published by Government, and
  • The extent to which recommendations of the Harries Commission, supported by charities and campaign groups, shaped the law.

It also draws on the evidence of charities and campaign groups, analysis of the law, and analysis of Ministerial statements during the parliamentary process to make recommendations which we hope will inform the drafting of the Electoral Commission’s regulatory guidance ahead of the 2015 General Election.

Key changes to the Bill

Key changes to the bill were agreed following two authoritative reports by the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, and a united campaign by over 130 charities and campaigning groups.

Changes include:

Amending rules for organisations ‘working to a joint plan’ (coalitions) to exclude small-spending organisations (A39).

Excluding some costs from controlled expenditure:

  • Translation into Welsh (A44)
  • Disability access (A44)
  • Safety and security measures (43)
  • NI parades (42)
  • Clarify volunteer costs are excluded (A44)

Raising the threshold for non-party organisations to register with the Electoral Commission to £20,000 for England, £10,000 for Scotland, Wales and NI (A46).

Raising the spending limit for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by £20,000 from the 70% cut initially proposed (A47).

Reducing the regulatory period from 1 year to 7.5 months for the 2015 General Election (A30-35).

Introducing a review of non-party campaigning rules after the 2015 General Election (A118).

Withdrawing post-dissolution spending caps in constituencies (A53).

Reduction in some regulatory burden (A50 A5).

What the Bill means for campaigning

The full implications of the Lobbying Bill will only be known once the Electoral Commission has produced guidance.

The Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement will produce an interim briefing paper about what the changes to the law mean for charities and campaigning organisations.

Case studies highlighting the expected impact on a range of campaigning are here.

The Commission on Civil Society is funded by donations from charities and campaigning organisations and individuals. Please donate to help make our work possible.