Transparency of Lobbying Bill - a threat the sector's independent voice

Seamus McAleavey has written to all NI Members of Parliament to express concerns at proposals contained in the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.  

NICVA is concerned that some of the proposals in the bill will have a negative impact on the ability of voluntary and community organisations to campaign on issues and engage in activities aimed at influencing the policies of political parties.

In his letter to MPs Seamus said "charities are already bound by charity law and therefore cannot be party political. However if the proposals included in the draft Bill were to become law then many charities would be curtailed from getting involved in campaigning and advocacy work on issues that are important to the people they work with.

The proposals in the bill are complex and unclear. However the definition of the scope of the bill is so broad it could capture a range of the day-to-day activities charities carry out, entirely legitimately, as part of their campaigning and advocacy work."

For example:

1) A health charity could publish a leaflet highlighting the dangers of smoking. If smoking legislation became a party political issue in an election this activity could be deemed to have the effect of supporting a party’s campaign, and be subject to regulation.

 2) A local community group could campaign for or against a proposed bypass road. If local candidates subsequently express a view on the issue the campaigning activity could be deemed to assist candidates election campaigns. The community group would become subject to regulation, even if it had acted apolitically and had no intention to support any candidate’s campaign.

 3) A children’s charity calls for a statutory inquiry via the media in response to a major abuse scandal at the same time as one of the major political parties. This could leave them open to claims that they have inadvertently benefited that party’s election campaign.

In addition the bill proposes a regulation and reporting framework which would place a vastly disproportionate administrative burden on both charitable organisations and the regulatory bodies.

Charity lawyers Bates, Wells and Braithwaite have also expressed concern about the proposals in the Bill. Read more here.

Our sister organisation NCVO has produced a comprehensive briefing on the proposals which you can read here.

This link takes you to information on the process for the passage of the Bill in Westminster.