Northern Ireland’s Peers “must act” to defeat lobby bill

Charities in Northern Ireland have called on Peers in the House of Lords to radically change or vote down the controversial lobbying bill.

The bill, which will place significant restrictions on charities who want to influence government policy, passed through the House of Commons despite significant opposition.  All of the Northern Ireland MPs present at the final reading of the Bill in the commons voted against it.

Speaking after the Northern Ireland meeting of the newly formed UK-wide Commission on Civil Society, Democracy and Engagement, NICVA CE Seamus McAleavey said, “It has been widely recognised that this is a confused and ill thought out piece of legislation rife with contradictions.

“We were pleased at the level of support our MPs showed to our concerns but bitterly disappointed that the Coalition government remains committed to pressing on with this deeply flawed piece of legislation.

“Therefore we are urging our local Peers to act now to ensure this legislation is amended. If it goes through in its current format it will have a huge impact on ordinary people, from, for example local organisations fighting the closure of a local hospital right through to large charities working with our most vulnerable people.”

Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty who attended the meeting added, “This Bill is a poorly drafted piece of legislation which could have the effect of gagging campaigners for many causes.

“That includes thousands of ordinary Amnesty members from across Northern Ireland who want to lobby their MPs on human rights issues at home and around the world.”

The Commission was set up following Government's failure to consult civil society before publishing Part 2 of the Transparency in Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill - which changes the law governing non-party political campaigning activity ahead of elections.

Supported by over 40 organisations including the WI, Oxfam, the RSPB and the Countryside Alliance you can find full details on the Commission website: http://civilsocietycommission.info/