Part of a Bill which charities say will restrict their ability to speak for vulnerable people should be “dropped altogether”, the shadow voluntary sector minister says.
MP Lisa Nandy’s comments come as Peers in the House of Lords debated the controversial lobbying Bill this week, after the Government paused the legislation for five weeks amidst widespread concerns.
She said all the problems for charities are “still there”.
“I don’t see any need for legislation that restricts charities’ abilities to speak out”, she added.
She explained that the charity sector “acts like a megaphone for people who don’t usually have a voice”.
A commission backed by 100 groups including many charities highlighted flaws within part two of the lobbying Bill.
Part two introduces new rules to control how non-party organisations speak out on issues in the 365 days before a general election.
The legislation will hit a whole range of legitimate campaigning activities, Peers warned during the committee stage of the Bill in the House of Lords this week.
Conservative Peer Lord Hodgson raised the issue of ethnic minority charities that might not wish to invite the British National Party candidate to their electoral hustings meetings.
He said they are concerned that by doing so, “for perfectly obvious reasons” they may inadvertently “fall into the trap” of the provisions in the Bill.
And Labour Peer Baroness Pitkeathley said she was “baffled” as to what the Government had been doing during the pause in the Bill, which came as a result of an “extraordinary negative reaction to the Bill”.
“The provisions of the Bill, I’m afraid, remain excessively broad in scope.”
“Why the rush for this Bill? It is clearly not yet fit for purpose”, she added.
Speaking for the Government, Lord Wallace of Tankerness said that charities and voluntary organisations should be “reassured” that their engagement with public policy will not be subject to regulation as long as it cannot “reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success” of a party or candidate.
The Bill completed committee stage yesterday in the House of Lords – it reaches report stage in January 2014.