Lords completes scrutiny of Lobbying Bill

30 January 2014

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill (Lobbying Bill), returned to the Lords for consideration of Commons changes on Tuesday 28 January

A Lords amendment to tighten the definition of 'controlled expenditure', removing the administrative burden on third party campaigners, including charities, was not agreed to by the Commons. A proposal to reinsert the amendment was taken to a vote. Members voted 231 in favour and 249 against, so the amendment was rejected.

Members of the Lords also voted again on staffing costs relating to activities covered by the new regulations. Peers had earlier voted to exclude 'background staff costs' to aid charities and campaigning groups. The Commons disagreed with the change and members of the Lords voted to reinstate the proposal - 245 voted in favour and 245 against. Where the vote is tied, the amendment is not agreed, so the change was not included in the bill.

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill (Lobbying Bill), has completed its passage through Parliament. It received royal assent on 30 January.

Lobbying Bill third reading: Tuesday 21 January

Members of the Lords considered constituency limits on 'controlled expenditure'. There was agreement that legislation should exist to stop elections being distorted at constituency level by disparities in funding, but concerns were raised about the potential impact on charities and campaigning groups who are not organised on a national basis.

An amendment to tighten the definition of 'controlled expenditure' to remove the administrative burden on third party campaigners was taken to a vote. Members voted 248 in favour and 222 against, so the change was made.  

Lobbying Bill report stage day two: Wednesday 15 January

Members of the Lords discussed the impact of increased regulation on 'controlled expenditure' on campaigning groups and charities. An amendment to exclude staffing costs relating to activities covered by the new regulations was taken to a vote, with 236 in favour and 193 against, so the change was made.

A second amendment, proposing to allow taxpayers to reclaim the basic rate of tax on their donations to political parties - in the same way as charities can through gift aid - also went to a vote. Members voted 28 in favour and 148 against, so this change was not made.

Lobbying Bill report stage day one: Monday 13 January

Members of the Lords began by discussing an amendment to extend the bill's proposed registration system to cover consultant lobbyists. The amendment went to a vote with 185 in favour and 218 against, so the change was not made.

The question of lobbying activities directed at parliamentary private secretaries, civil servants and political advisors was also explored. A suggestion that this type of lobbying should also be included in the register went to a vote with 191 in favour and 242 against, so the change was not made. A related amendment, extending the register to specifically cover the lobbying of special advisors, was also taken to a vote, with 212 in favour and 195 against, so this change was agreed.  

Members went on to consider a proposal requiring government ministers making policy statements to publish details of who had lobbied them on the issue. An amendment to add this requirement to the bill went to a vote with 175 in favour and 226 against, so the suggestion was not taken forward.

Peers then discussed the additional legal requirements to be placed on trade unions to keep their list of members up to date. An amendment to ensure that the 'assurer' charged with checking these records should be bound by a duty of confidentiality to the union and its members was taken to a vote, with 157 in favour and 216 against, so the change was not made.

Lobbying Bill committee stage day four: Wednesday 18 December

Members of the Lords discussed how the proposals could affect coalition working between charities - and whether planned regulations would make it difficult for joint campaigning work to continue. 

The need for guidance for third parties on compliance with the new legislation on regulation of expenditure was also raised. The government confirmed its commitment to clear communication and indicated that the Electoral Commission would produce published guidance in consultation with the Charity Commission.

Lobbying Bill committee stage day three: Monday 16 December

Members of the Lords began by discussing a suggestion to remove Northern Ireland from part two of the bill, covering non-party campaigning, because of the way it is governed by a power-sharing executive. Many members argued that charities and community groups help foster engagement across society in Northern Ireland and that their work is threatened by the proposed legislation.

Peers also sought clarification on the meaning of 'controlled expenditure' to ensure community groups, charities and voluntary organisations can continue to engage with matters of public policy, without being subject to increased regulation.

Lobbying Bill committee stage day two: Monday 11 November

Members of the Lords began by considering an amendment covering the role of professional lobbyists who take up positions in government. Discussions then turned to proposals within the bill requiring trade unions to keep and maintain a membership register. Several members raised concerns that such obligations would threaten a union's ability to represent its members.

Lobbying Bill committee stage day one: Tuesday 5 November

Members began by discussing a motion suggested by Lord Ramsbotham (Crossbench), that would see part two of the bill, covering non-party campaigning, considered by a specially appointed select committee. The government agreed to a five week pause for consultation on part two.

Committee stage for the rest of the bill will continue - part two will be scrutinised on 16 December. After this commitment was made, Lord Ramsbotham's original suggestion was withdrawn. No vote was required.

Members went on to discuss suggested changes to the proposed register of lobbyists - concerns were raised that the register must include in-house lobbyists for it to be credible. The position of special advisors, and whether lobbying activities directed at them should be included in the register, was also explored.

Lobbying Bill second reading: Tuesday 22 October

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Viscount Younger of Leckie (Conservative), opened the debate. He introduced the bill, saying it formed part of the government's commitment to increasing transparency in public life, and would generate more openness and accountability in politics.

Among the issues highlighted in the debate were the potential impact of the bill on the campaigning work of charities, faith-based bodies and trade unions, and a concern that it failed to tackle the issue of lobbyists - particularly those organisations who employ professionals in-house rather than through a consultancy. The need to ensure the legislation covered lobbying of all civil servants, special advisers and chairs of Select Committees was also discussed.

Many members voiced reservations about the timetable of the bill and the level of scrutiny it has received to date.

Lobbying Bill summary

The Lobbying Bill seeks to make changes in three key areas:

  • introducing a statutory register of consultant lobbyists and establishing a Registrar to enforce the registration requirements
  • regulating more closely election campaign spending by those not standing for election or registered as political parties
  • strengthening the legal requirements placed on trade unions in relation to their obligation to keep their list of members up to date.

Further information

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