Rethink of lobbying reform still a possibility

Bill is scheduled to have its second reading in the Commons next month
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Downing Street has held open the possibility that it may rethink its heavily criticised plans to reform Britain’s lobbying industry.

Government plans to fast-track new legislation on lobbying through the Commons were described to The Independent as a “dog’s breakfast” by the head of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee, Graham Allen.

The new lobbying bill is scheduled to have its second reading on the Commons next month, with Number 10 confident it can then pass through the Lords and become law before the end of this year.

Although nothing concrete was promised, a Downing Street spokesman offered the prospect that the proposed reform could yet be redefined.

The Number 10 spokesman said that, during next month’s Commons debate and discussions on the lobbying bill: “If we feel the need to refine legislation then of course we will.”

Angela Eagle MP, the shadow Commons leader, denounced the Bill as a “complete mess”.

She said: “It is rushed, incoherent and looks likely to make things worse not better.

“The proposals on lobbying are so narrow they are laughable.”

She warned the Bill would also “gag charities with onerous regulations”.

The TUC condemned the Bill’s provisions to cut the amount campaigners – such as unions – can spend in the year before an election.

It called for an urgent meeting with Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith to protest at “an outrageous attack on freedom of speech worthy of an authoritarian dictatorship”.

It claimed the Bill would make organising its 2014 annual conference – or a TUC national demonstration in the 12 months before the 2015 election – criminal offences.