Charities could be prevented from being a voice for people in need under the Government’s lobbying proposals, a corporate lawyer has warned.
Writing in The Scotsman newspaper, Morag Radcliffe said that the lobbying Bill risks making charities wary about speaking out for those who depend on them.
Part two of the lobbying Bill introduces new rules to control how not-for-profit organisations speak out on issues in the 365 days before a general election.
Mrs Radcliffe said: “Charities have to be allowed to lobby – this is part of their purpose, to be a voice for those who need their support.”
She has spoken to many charities that have “considerable disquiet” about the legislation.
And she said that as a collective body, politicians need to consider the “negative impact” the Bill could have on “restricting the ability of our charities to campaign in the interests of those who are dependent upon them”.
She added: “To me, it is clear cut – charities should not be caught up by this unnecessary regulation which is not even aimed at them.”
Last week, the Government decided to pause part two of the lobbying Bill amid the concerns over the restrictions on free speech.
Ministers announced they would “consult widely” for a period of nearly six weeks.
Morag Radcliffe said: “Let us hope they use this pause wisely as politicians should ensure the proposed new legislation does not silence essential calls for help.”
Close to 40 groups who oppose the Bill, including The Christian Institute and the National Secular Society, are supporting a commission which warned that freedom of expression could be “unduly” curtailed under the proposals.
The former Bishop of Oxford Lord Harries is the chairman of the commission and said the pause was a “very, very short period indeed”.
He added: “The Government’s lobbying Bill will prevent charities from campaigning for fear of breaking the law.”
“The proposals, which have been hurried through without any consultation, will stifle debate and are totally unacceptable in a democratic society.”