NICVA Urges Organisations to Contact MPs on Lobbying Bill Proposals
NICVA members met on Thursday 28 August to discuss their concerns about the ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill’ which is due to have its second reading at Westminster on 3 September, before moving straight to Committee Stage on 9 September.
Speaking after the meeting Seamus McAleavey, Chief Executive of NICVA said, “This Bill appears to be badly thought through and will have shocking consequences if it becomes law in this format. Every day in Northern Ireland groups of people come together to raise awareness of issues that concern them and get support from MPs and MLAs to make positive changes in their community. These new laws will have a serious impact on their ability to do this.
"For instance, if a group of organisations came together to oppose a local hospital closure and the campaign was within one year prior to an election, then the group would have to register with The Electoral Commission, report their spending and would have limits placed on what they can do. Why? Because a political party or candidate in the election might support or oppose that hospital closure and so the group might be deemed to have helped one candidate or disadvantaged another – whether they intended to or not. And of course Charity Law ensures that voluntary and community organisations can’t be party political in anyway.”
The Electoral Commission published their briefing on the proposals, which they said ‘create significant regulatory uncertainty for large and small organisations that campaign on, or even discuss, public policy issues… and imposes significant new burdens on such organisations.’ They add that the legislation is so unclear that it may be impossible for them to enforce reasonably.
NICVA is asking voluntary and community organisations to urgently contact their MPs and alert them to the dangerous proposals in this Bill. A copy of the letter sent by NICVA can be adapted to suit your own organisation. It's also important to send a copy of your letter to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, who are responsible for scrutinising the bill. You can email them here [email protected].