I got an email from 38 Degrees – I think I must have joined in with one of their e-campaigns – possibly the Forestry one. The email was about the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.
This bill will make it a criminal offence for a charity or campaigning organisation to raise money to wage a campaign or even just do some publicity on an issue which could be construed to be political, within one year of an election – a general election, a european election and council election. Since elections are going on all the time this could equate to a permanent ban on public political activity by charities and other campaigning organisations.
I have just written to Chloe Smith, the Parliamentary Secretary (Minister for Political & Constitutional Reform) who has been tasked with getting this appalling piece of legislation through the house.
here’s my email:
I understand you are responsible for the passage of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill through the House of Commons. I have read, with increasing disquiet, from a number of different sources, that this Bill if made law will make it far more difficult, if not impossible, for Charities and campaigning organisations, to seek to influence Government policy and legislation – particularly through publicity campaigns.
The voluntary sector has a long and distinguished history in England of shaping public opinion, policy and legislation to the benefit of society. Charities and campaigning organisations work to influence opinion and policy in ways that are open and transparent, unlike commercial lobbyists. Moreover, charities and campaigning organisations are motivated to effect change for the benefit of society, rather than for purely financial motives, as is always the case with commercial lobbyists.
This Government has claimed it believes in “the Big Society” and the power of the voluntary sector to make society better. Why then is it planning to criminalise activities which have brought about such benefits to society as animal welfare legislation, environmental protection legislation, legislation that has cleaned our air and water, legislation that has criminalised child exploitation, and legislation that has brought about a move towards equal rights for men and women, ethnic minorities, and disabled people?
According to Wikipedia Chloe Smith is an active volunteer for Cancer Research UK and Sport Relief. So presumably she appreciates the value of the Voluntary Sector.
If you think Charities and campaigning organisations in the third sector should be able to continue to influence policy and legislation please write to her too. Her email is ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.