The Government has decided to pause part of the controversial lobbying Bill which restricts freedom to speak out about politics.
The move came as Peers were threatening to delay the Bill for a further three months, following concerns from charities and campaign groups.
Ministers announced they will “consult widely” for a period of nearly six weeks on proposals which would severely curtail spending in the year preceding an election.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) said the Government should use the time to rethink the purpose of the legislation.
Sir Stuart Etherington, NCVO’s chief executive, said: “We still need to see substantial changes in order to ensure normal charity campaigning, which has been part of public life in this country for decades, is truly protected”.
He added: “In addition to increasing the thresholds for registration with the Electoral Commission, the government needs to deal with the proposed constituency spending limits and other measures that would create alarming levels of red tape for charities, such as asking them to account for staff time.”
The former Bishop of Oxford Lord Harries is the chairman of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, which is backed by close to 40 groups who oppose the Bill, including The Christian Institute and the National Secular Society.
He 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.”
The commission published a report last week warning that freedom of expression could be “severely restricted” and “unduly” curtailed.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire, the Cabinet Office spokesman in the House of Lords, said the Government is listening to concerns.
He said that during the pause, “I and my other colleagues in government responsible for this bill will consult widely with all the interested parties – members of this House and the many others outside.”
The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill was debated at committee stage in the House of Lords on Tuesday.
Lord Ramsbotham had threatened to force a vote which would have sent part of the Bill to a special committee in the Lords, delaying it further.