Monday, 9 September 2013

It just won't do!

Still, the Lobbying Bill can't find a single supporter outside the government's inner circle. Though some groups looked perilously close to that on Friday after Andrew Lansley announced minor concessions to charities' needs. 

Lansley's small concessions have yet to be fully outlined, but it looks like they still don't make the cut. ACEVO members' reactions certainly indicate the battle must continue, to push for the Bill to be withdrawn and redrafted with the usual, proper scrutiny as the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee suggests.

The fact is that the Bill remains fundamentally flawed. Our issue with it is not simply how it affects charities, but the fact it suggests they, and not other groups in society, are to blame for the public's loss of trust in politics. 

In truth, as ACEVO has led the way in arguing, the Bill still punishes civil society for the problems caused by corporate lobbying and by politicians themselves. 

To return to one case I used in my Times article last week, Lansley's amendments will perhaps leave Cancer Research UK slightly less constrained in their campaigns for cancer research funding or for restrictions on cigarette advertising. But the Bill still does nothing to tackle the other side of the coin: tobacco lobbyists covertly pressuring government to soften up their policy on plain cigarette packaging, for example.

So we should redouble our efforts to get this Bill withdrawn. Even in this week's form, it still misses the fundamental opportunity it has to make our politics more transparent and trusted. Minor tinkering is not good enough. We need to go back to the drawing board.

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