Thursday 10 October 2013

Concerns for campaigning: Lobbying Bill crucial stage: reports

Further to yesterday's vote in the Commons
Futures Forum: Concerns for campaigning: Lobbying Bill crucial stage
MPs vote lobbying bill through at third reading
and despite last-minute changes
Ministers make U-turn over 'gagging' anti-lobbying laws after public outcry | Politics | The Guardian
there are fears for the next steps as the Bill goes through the Lords:


The lobbying bill is a pernicious attack on freedom. All good men (and women) should oppose it.

4 comments10 September 2013 18:18 
Press Censorship
The bill should really, therefore, be called The Suppression of Opinions The Present Government Deems Inconvenient. And why are they inconvenient? Because these opinions amount to opposition and opposition is invariably inconvenient. Even if it is loyal rather than shadowy.

The Adam Smith Institute and Big Brother Watch and the Institute for Economic Affairs and ConservativeHome hate this bill just as much as Oxfam or any other “left-wing” think tank, charity or campaign group.
And they hate it with good reason because for the 12 months preceding any election the bill makes it massively more difficult for these organisations to their work. This is not some shadowy conspiracy designed to manipulate the state. It is the stuff of public life in a mature democracy. Doubtless this is, from time to time, inconvenient to the government of the day but what of that? The public square is – and should be – a noisy, crowded, disputatious place. A better government would have the confidence to make its arguments and trust they might prevail. It would not seek to silence third parties or do its best to regulate them out of existence.
Campaign groups are by definition biased. Think Tanks would like to nudge political parties towards policies recommended by think tanks. We know when IPPR or Policy Exchange is “trying to influence our politics” because newspapers publish sentences like “according to a new report published today by Policy Exchange…”
There is no crisis here, there is no great problem that requires more regulation (the opposite is more probably true). There are few shadowy types undermining British democracy and those that might exist won’t be affected by this daft and pernicious bill anyway.
The lobbying bill is a pernicious attack on freedom. All good men (and women) should oppose it. » Spectator Blogs

38 Degrees Logo

Yesterday evening, MPs narrowly voted in favour of the gagging law. It now moves to the House of Lords, where it will start being debated in two weeks.

So we haven't yet seen off this threat to democracy. This is disappointing - But it's in no sense the end. By making the vote so close, we've got a strong chance of reversing it in the House of Lords.

So, what's happened so far?

There was a fiery debate and a big rebellion in parliament yesterday. Only Lib Dem and Conservative MPs voted in favour. In total, across three crunch votes, it looks like 19 coalition MPs rebelled. [1]

To get 19 Lib Dem and Conservative MPs to vote against the gagging law was in no small part down to the amazing efforts of 38 Degrees members. Working together with some of Britain's most loved voluntary organisations, we made sure every MP felt under pressure.

Several more Lib Dem MPs rebelled compared to previous votes on the gagging law - after 38 Degrees members and many other organisations ramped up the pressure on them. The leaflets, posters, and meetings we organised made a clear difference.

I have found it incredibly inspiring to see everything 38 Degrees members have done on this campaign. Thousands of us have come together to defend free speech. All across the UK, 38 Degrees members have been defending our right to get organised and speak up on the issues that matter to us. Here are just a few of the things I've seen:
  • Over a quarter of a million emails, phone calls and tweets to MPs
  • Over 100 face-to-face meetings with MPs
  • Over £120,000 raised to fund leaflets, adverts and events
  • A brilliant rally outside Parliament, where 38 Degrees members joined supporters of dozens of other groups to stand up for free speech (have a look at some lovely photos of that here: http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2013/10/09/rally-for-freedom-of-speech-2/)
Last Friday, I sat at the back of a public meeting about the gagging law called by Tom Brake MP. He’s one of the Lib Dem ministers pushing the gagging law through. The 38 Degrees members were fantastic - I watched them put Tom Brake on the spot with searching questions and powerful arguments. He looked increasingly shifty and irritated as the evening went on.

I felt so proud to be part of a network that stands up for the truth and refuses to be fobbed off by those in power!

Chatting to 38 Degrees members after that event gave me a powerful reminder of what is at stake with this campaign. There is so much going wrong with our democracy. Political parties aren't trusted. Politicians are too often in it for themselves. Corporate and industry lobbyists have way too much influence.

We need independent organisations, voluntary groups, campaign groups like 38 Degrees, to give ordinary people a voice.

So, what will happen next?

In the coming weeks, the gagging law will be voted on by the House of Lords. We need to try to persuade the Lords to get stuck in and block it. I think we can do it.

There are reasons why convincing the Lords won’t be that easy:
  • The Lords are unelected. So we can't try to influence them "as their voters" in the way we can with MPs.
  • A large number of peers are Lib Dems or Conservatives – and they will be under pressure from their party bosses to toe the government line.
But there are also some reasons to be optimistic:
  • Lords tend to be more willing to challenge government legislation when it has been rushed through and where there hasn't been proper consultation. That definitely applies this time!
  • Many peers are patrons and board members of voluntary organisations and charities which would be hit by the gagging law. This means they should have reason to be concerned.
  • An independent "commission on civil society and democracy" has been set up with the support of dozens of voluntary organisations – and will provide the Lords with serious recommendations. It is chaired by an influential, nonparty Lord – Richard Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford. [2]
  • 38 Degrees members learnt a lot about how to influence members of the House of Lords from our NHS campaign last year. [3]
So, there will be a lot to do over the next couple of months. I would love to hear your thoughts on how we approach this...

There's so much I'd appreciate feedback on... What should we do next to influence the House of Lords?


PS: Check out this video which explains the gagging law, and share with your friends:

PPS: You can see how your MP voted, here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/gagging-law-3rd-reading-votes. Over the next week, we will need to send thank you letters to those MPs who did the right thing, and follow-up message to those who didn't, asking them to explain themselves.

[1] There were three vital votes in Parliament last night on the gagging law. The first (amendment 101) was a vote on what sort of expenditure would fall within the law, whilst the second (amendment 102) was a vote to raise the spending limits imposed by the law on non-party organisations. The third important vote was the "Third Reading", which was a vote on the whole gagging law.

On amendment 101, ten Coalition MPs rebelled (7 Conservative and 3 Liberal Democrats). On amendment 102, fourteen Coalition MPs rebelled (10 Conservative and 4 Liberal Democrats). On the Third Reading, eleven Coalition MPs rebelled (4 Conservative and 7 Liberal Democrats).

In total, it looks like nineteen Coalition MPs rebelled on at least one of the important votes (10 Conservatives and 9 Liberal Democrats). The office team will crunch together the data on the various votes over the next few days and send you info on how your MP voted as soon as we're confident it's 100% accurate.

[2] Civil Society Commission website: http://civilsocietycommission.info/

[3] Save our NHS action centre: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/pages/save_our_nhs_action_centre

Follow 38 Degrees on Facebook and Twitter.

38 Degrees | people. power. change.

No comments: