Lord Harries amendments

Part 2 of the Lobbying Bill: Report Stage briefing

Harries amendments

The below amendments are supported by the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement which is backed by over 120 charities and campaigning organisations including the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

The amendments are also supported by a petition of over 100 NGOs and over 150,000 people. Details at: http://civilsocietycommission.info/petition/

They are also supported by the National Council of Voluntary Organisations and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations.

           Priorities for voting at Report stage are:

           1. The scope of staff costs: amendment 45

           2. The scope of constituency regulation: amendment 52

           3. Coalition campaigning: amendment 39A

These are compromise amendments rather than representing the changes that the Commission and campaigning organiations think are needed to the Bill.

Because the Bill was drafted without consultation with NGOs or the Electoral Commission, and without any pre-legislative scrutiny, and has been rushed through Parliament, significant problems and uncertainties remain with the legislation unusually late in the process.

           Further amendments have been tabled with the intention of obtaining ministerial                  commitments to return to the issues at Third Reading:

           4.    A modern definition of supporters: amendment 40

           5.     Excluding campaigning about Bills before Parliament: amendment 34

           6. Constituency spending limits: 52A

           7. Spending limits for England and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland :                           amendment 46A

           8. Coordinated guidance from the Electoral and Charity Commissions: amendment            119ZA

Lord Harries wishes to acknowledge the work of Lord Tyler and his office in contributing to the drafting of several of the amendments, some of which have Lord Tyler as the first signatory.

 
Click here for download of Harries amendments
 

1. The scope of staff costs: amendment 45

 Background

The Lobbying Bill proposes to include staff costs for all new controlled activity. Charities and campaigning organisations say this would be bureaucratically burdensome and impossible to implement. The Electoral Commission recommend that staff costs be excluded for the 2015 General Election. Staff costs are not included in controlled expenditure for political parties.

 Explanatory note

This amendment is a compromise. It would include staff costs for a sub-set of controlled activities that are directly relevant to influencing voters, and excludes difficult to define ‘background’ staff costs.

          LORD HARRIES OF PENTREGARTH

          LORD TYLER

          LORD CORMACK

          BARONESS MALLALIEU

          Page 57, line 14, at end insert—

          “Exclusions of background staff costs

          1AA Nothing in sub-paragraphs (3) to (5) of paragraph 1 shall be taken as

          extending to any expenses incurred in respect of remuneration or

          allowances payable to any member of staff (whether permanent or

          otherwise) of the third party.”

2. The scope of constituency regulation: amendment 52

 Background

The Lobbying Bill proposes to introduce new constituency limits. The Electoral Commission says they may be unenforceable. Charities and campaigning organisations say they will be impossible to implement, bureaucratically burdensome and far too restrictive on campaigning.

 Explanatory note

This amendment is a compromise. It would make a sub-set of controlled activity subject to constituency-level regulation. Constituency level spending limits would apply only to activity that directly targets local people in any particular constituency.

          LORD TYLER

          LORD HARRIES OF PENTREGARTH

          LORD CORMACK

          BARONESS MALLALIEU

          Page 16, line 22, leave out from “if” to end of line 23 and insert “the expenditure

          relates to—

               (a)   sending election material falling within paragraph 1 of

               Schedule 8A which addressed to electors (whether addressed to them by name                 or intended for delivery to households within any particular area or areas)

               (b)   unsolicited telephone calls falling within paragraph 2 of Schedule 8A, made                 to such persons or households which can reasonably be regarded as intended to               ascertain or influence their voting intention.

               [k1]  ( )   For the purposes of this paragraph, “election material” is defined

               as in section 143A.”

3. Coalition campaigning: amendment 39A

Background

Charities and campaigning organisations experienced problems before the 2010 General Election in relation to PPERA rules on coalition campaigning, or organising to a common plan. The Lobbying Bill proposes a cut in spending limits of 60% for England and around 60% for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which seriously exacerbates this problem. Ministers have accepted an amendment developed from a Harries Commission recommendation to lessen the administrative burden for organisations that spend under the registration threshold. A significant (and worse problem than under PPERA) still exists for organisations spending above the threshold.

Ministers have said they would be sympathetic to an amendment that further lessens the regulatory burden for non-party coalition campaigning so long as it does not introduce loopholes for evasion.

Explanatory note

The amendment would help to ensure that an organisation that works in coalition with others is not prevented from doing other campaigning work. This amendment would still ensure that any coalition campaign cannot spend over the spending limit, and that any individual organisation cannot spend over the limit over a range of campaigns either.

However, the amendment would eliminate the unfair anomaly in existing law which means that a partner in a coalition campaign on one issue would be limited in their spending on other, totally unrelated issues by virtue of continued spending by other coalition partners on the first issue. This is wrong in principle, and will not be dealt with by the (welcome) Government amendments on this alone.

LORD TYLER

          LORD HARRIES OF PENTREGARTH

          LORD CORMACK

          BARONESS MALLALIEU

         AFTER CLAUSE 29

         Insert the following new Clause—

         () Third parties working together

         (1) Section 94 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 is                   amended as follows—

         (2) In subsection (6)(b) after ‘or other arrangement’ insert ‘(“an arrangement”)’

         (3) In subsection (6)(ii) after ‘section 85(3)’ insert ‘(“common expenditure”)’

         (4) In subsection (6), at end insert ‘in pursuance of an arrangement.

         (6A) The limits set out in Schedule 10 apply to the total of any common expenditure            on an arrangement.

         (6B) Nothing in subsections (6) and (6A) restricts expenditure by a third party within            the limits set out by Schedule 10 in pursuance of any matter unrelated to an                        arrangement, and which could not reasonably be regarded as intended to achieve a            purpose common to an arrangement.’

        4. A modern definition of supporters: amendment 40

Background

Controlled activity relates to communication with the public not with third party supporters. The current definition of third part supporters focuses on financial donors. Modern campaigning involves supporters who are active in campaigning but who may not be financial donors.

 Explanatory note

This amendment modernises the definition of a third party supporter to be one who has directly communicated to the organisation in the last twelve months.

 Schedule 3

          LORD TYLER

          LORD HARRIES OF PENTREGARTH

          LORD CORMACK

          BARONESS MALLALIEU

          Page 56, line 35, at end insert—

          “(1A)    Nothing in sub-paragraph (1) shall be taken as extending to

          communications with committed supporters, who have been

          actively involved in the activity of a recognised third party.

          (1B)   For the purposes of sub-paragraph (1A) “actively involved” means those who            have made a donation (whether within purposes of Schedule 11 to PPERA 2000, or            not) to the recognised third party or who have made a direct communication                        (whether solicited or otherwise) to the third party in the past twelve months.”

 

5. Campaigning about Bills being debated in Parliament: amendment 34

 Background

Ministers have said that they do not intend third party campaigning for or against a Bill in Parliament, such as the current campaign for changes to the Lobbying Bill, to be controlled activity.

 Explanatory note

This amendment is intended to clarify the definition of controlled expenditure such that it excludes routine third party campaigning work in support or opposition to legislation passing through Parliament.

          LORD HARRIES OF PENTREGARTH

          LORD TYLER

          LORD CORMACK

          BARONESS MALLALIEU

          Page 12, line 45, at end insert—

          “unless the expenditure relates to legislation before Parliament during the regulated             period”

6. Constituency spending limits: amendment 52A*

Background

The Lobbying Bill proposes to introduce new constituency limits. The Electoral Commission says they may be unenforceable. Charities and campaigning organisations say they will be impossible to implement, bureaucratically burdensome and far too restrictive on campaigning. The constituency spending limit of £9,750 for the whole regulatory period is much more restrictive than needed to avert disproportionate impact on an election.

Explanatory note

It will only possible for peers to make an informed judgement about appropriate spending limits once the scope of regulated activity has been decided at Report stage.

The amendment due to be tabled by Lord Harries will propose a higher constituency spending limit. The aim is to secure a ministerial commitment to return to the issue at Third Reading.

          LORD HARRIES OF PENTREGARTH

          Page 16, line 31, leave out “0.05%” and insert “0.1013%”

7. Spending limits for England and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: amendment 46A*

Background

The Lobbying Bill proposes to slash spending limits by 60% in England, and by about 60% following Government changes to the Bill at Report stage in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland . This is at the same time as proposing to significantly widen the scope of regulated activity including staff costs for all new activity. The Electoral Commission have made clear their view that if the scope of regulated activity is widened it would be appropriate to increase not decrease the spending limit.

Explanatory note

This amendment is for the spending limit to return to PPERA levels.

The aim is to secure a ministerial commitment to return to the issue at Third Reading.

It will only possible for peers to make an informed judgement about appropriate spending limits once the scope of regulated activity has been decided at Report stage.

          LORD HARRIES OF PENTREGARTH

          Page 15, line 3, leave out paragraph (a)

8. Coordinated Electoral and Charity Commission guidance: amendment 119ZA

Background

The Electoral Commission and Charity Commission have produced separate and different guidance for charities ahead of previous elections. This has made it difficult for charities to understand the law applying to them in regulated periods.

Explanatory note

This amendment requires the Electoral Commission and Charity Commission to produce coordinated guidance so that charities have clarity about the regulation with which they are required to comply.

          LORD HODGSON OF ASTLEY ABBOTTS

          LORD HARRIES OF PENTREGARTH

          BARONESS MALLALIEU

          LORD CORMACK

 

Insert the following new Clause—

“Electoral Commission and Charity Commission: joint guidance

          Before the commencement of this Act, the Minister shall require the

          Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission to produce co-

          ordinated guidance on the requirements of Part 2 as they apply to

          charities.”