Charities and campaign groups have warned that the latest changes to part of the controversial lobbying Bill – which restricts election campaigning – do not go far enough.
The Government amendments mean groups in England can now spend £20,000 – up from £10,000 – before needing to be registered with the Electoral Commission, and those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are allowed to spend £10,000 – up from £5,000.
Another change increases the UK-wide pre-election overall spending cap from £390,000 to £450,000 – which is still less than half the current limit of £988,500.
Charities and campaigners say the amendments are inadequate as they fail to deal with key problems in the Bill, such as the spending limit of £9,750 per constituency.
Organisations also fear being caught by the inclusion of staff costs within the spending caps, when staff costs are excluded from political parties’ spending limits.
Speaking about the amendments, the former Bishop of Oxford Lord Harries said “there are still some major issues that need to be resolved”.
He said ministers have made “important concessions” after recognising the “force of the arguments”, but pointed to a petition calling for further changes which has now been signed by over 100 concerned groups and 158,000 people.
In a letter to The Observer, Lord Harries said the “extraordinary speed and scale of support” for the petition shows the “strength of concern that remains”.
The groups involved include Oxfam, the Countryside Alliance and the Salvation Army.
Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s chief executive, said that problems within the Bill remain, despite Government changes.
He said, “unworkable limits on constituency spending and the requirement to account for staff costs will still unduly restrict the ability of charities and others to speak out on issues of legitimate concern”.
Amendments on part two of the lobbying Bill are due to be voted on in the House of Lords tomorrow at report stage.