Andrew Lansley's lobbying Bill is still a 'dog's breakfast'

Charities caught up in confusing legislation intended to regulate lobbyists and lobbying

Andrew Lansley's last-minute efforts to revamp the heavily criticised lobbying Bill has meant the Government has spent the last month in "a headless chicken run" on flawed legislation that will have a "chilling effect" on the efforts of charities and campaigning organisations, according to an electoral lawyer and a rights activist.

Mr Lansley, the controversial former health secretary who is now Leader of the Commons, is again under fire after the Government last week published a series of amendments designed to improve the Bill, described in August by the head of the Commons constitutional reform select committee, Graham Allen, as a "dog's breakfast".

The Commons will revisit Mr Lansley's awkwardly-named "Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill" on Tuesday. However, the claimed "improvements" made after Mr Allen's committee questioned the House leader last month appear to have made the legislation even worse.

New reduced spending limits applying to campaign groups – but not to political parties – and lower thresholds for registration with the Electoral Commission have been listed without explanation in the Bill. Ros Baston, a lawyer previously at the Electoral Commission, said: "It appears that the Government has been taken aback by the level of opposition and has spent the past few weeks on a headless chicken run. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in amendments that mystify more than they enlighten."

The amended Bill, effectively having the dual aim of reforming Britain's £2bn lobbying industry and bringing in new controls to limit the overt political activities of campaign groups and trade unions, is now described by Alexandra Runswick, the director of the Unlock Democracy rights organisation, as "a textbook example of how not to draft legislation".

She added: "It is explicitly partisan and is now being rushed through Parliament with very little scrutiny. Huge uncertainty is being created both for the voluntary sector and for the Electoral Commission. As its stands the proposals will have a chilling effect on campaigning."

Iain Anderson, the director of the Cicero lobbying group and chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, said: "The amendments have not changed the scope of the Bill's impact on the lobbying industry. It shows that they [ministers] are not listening. There has been no change to the definition of those who lobby, and who they lobby. Rational arguments and Parliament's wider concerns are being ignored."

Part one of the Bill, directed at the lobbying industry, still targets only professional lobbyists who directly contact ministers and ministerial aides.

When in opposition, David Cameron had forecast lobbying as "the next big political scandal waiting to happen" and promised a statutory register of lobbyists to address the problem. However, the Bill as it stands still exempts 80 per cent of lobbyists and fails to address almost 90 per cent of what the industry routinely does.

Appeals by the lobbying industry's professional associations have largely been ignored by Mr Lansley. One senior lobbying executive told The Independent on Sunday: "Lansley's mistakes in failing to listen to those working at the core of the NHS are being repeated. He is either deaf or just determined not to listen."

Both the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) claim the new amendments for the Bill's part two, relating to campaign groups and trade unions, are creating "uncertainty and ambiguity".

Sir Stuart Etherington, the chief executive of the NCVO, said: "Many organisations, including small community groups, will be required to consult the Electoral Commission before undertaking campaigning activity in an election period in order to ensure they are not falling foul of the new regulations."

While welcoming the attempt to address charities' concerns, Sir Stuart added: "The assurances given by ministers on the floor of the House to ensure that charities will still be able to support specific policies that might also be advocated by political parties, have not been met."

He further warned that despite the Bill's proposed amendments, "much campaigning activity by charities and other voluntary groups will still be covered by this excessively bureaucratic and burdensome regime".

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm it was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf plays a World War II soldier in forthcoming drama Fury
films

Eccentric Fury star, 28, reveals he is 'not a really confident actor'

Life and Style
Time and Oak have developed a product that allows drinkers to customise the flavour and improve the quality of cheaper whiskey
food + drink

Sport
football

Peter Biaksangzuala died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday

Life and Style
The final 12 acts will be facing Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Mel B and Louis Walsh tonight
fashion

The X Factor's judges colourful outfit was mocked by Simon Cowell

News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Senior Change Engineer (Windows, Linux, VMWare) - London £35k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past