Posted: 12 September, 2013 at 2:52 pm

My criticisms in the Commons of the Lobbying Bill

My criticisms in the Commons of the Lobbying Bill

A very high number of constituents have contacted me about the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill – all strongly opposed to it.

While the lobbying industry needs reform, this is a bad Bill and would make things worse not better.

I voted against the Bill in the Commons and made clear my concerns and criticisms when it was discussed in Committee on 10 September and 11 September.

The Lobbying Bill would gag those who want to play a part in challenging politicians and curb the campaigning activities of trade unions, charities, churches and others – but it would do nothing to address the real ‘big money’ in politics. Therefore it can only be seen as a way of trying to clamp down the critical voices of civil society and trade unions.

The purpose of several provisions in the Bill is unclear. Clause 36, for example, the duty to provide membership audit certificate, may contravene the European Convention on Human Rights’ right to privacy and union members are rightly concerned about it given the recent history of blacklisting and discrimination on the basis of trade union membership or activity.

The discussion in Committee on clause 36 showed there was no evidence of a problem that it would deal with, that there is no public call for these changes, and that there is no principled case for them. The only conclusion is that the intention, or the purpose, of the clause is to tighten the legislative leash on trade unions and their ability to take proper, lawful industrial action.

The White Paper, the forerunner of the Bill, did not mention trade unions. That part was published the day before the summer recess, eight working days before it was to be considered in Committee, which stops proper scrutiny by MPs in the House of Commons. This is unacceptable.

As with so much from this government, there is a big gap between what ministers say and what they do.

Like the Health and Social Care Bill, which I led the opposition to, the Lobbying Bill is confused and being handled incompetently. Like the Health Bill, the government need to pause the passage of the legislation and review the widespread criticisms being made and I encouraged the Minister to do so in last week’s debates.

I remain strongly opposed to this Bill and will continue to do all I can to pressure the government to rethink.