Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Caroline Lucas warns that 'chilling' gagging bill could limit campaigns against racist and extremist parties

The House of Commons passed the general principles of the 'gagging bill' by 62 votes today. It will now go to detailed scrutiny at Committee stage.. This is what Caroline Lucas, Green MP, wrote about it on her blog.

The  ‘Lobbying Bill’, due its second reading today, would have horrifying implications for the way politics – and political campaigning –  are practised in this country.  Outrageously, it would suppress a range of legitimate voices, while doing very little to expose the murky world of lobbying.

It’s very much a bill of three distinct parts – one broadly welcome but inadequate, one of significant concern, and one plain sinister.

Part One of the Bill would set up a register of lobbyists.  I’ve been calling for this for some time, and it’s long overdue.  People have a right to know about the various different influences on the decisions being made on their behalf.  But whereas other parts of the Bill go too far, this one doesn’t go far enough.   As it’s worded, only a small proportion of the people meeting with ministers and officials, many of them from powerful companies,  would be defined as lobbyists.   Instead of restricting itself to the very narrow group of “consultant lobbyists”, the scope of the Bill should be much wider, so that it shines a light on the way lobbying works.

 As the Unlock Democracy group is arguing, the legislation should do far more to improve transparency, particularly around the financial aspects of lobbying.  For example, the amount paid to lobbyists by clients should be in the public domain, as should information on anypublic office they have held in the past five years.  And the registrar should be required to report to Parliament each year on the administration of the Act. 

Part Three of the Bill – which has been interpreted as an attempt by the Government to embarrass Labour over its candidate selection processes –  imposes new requirements on unions.    Their obligations to provide membership information to the independent regulator, who would gain new powers, would be further tightened.   Unions have very legitimate concerns that this would create another barrier to the right to take industrial action.  Whether this is deliberate or an unintended consequence, it’s worrying.

But it’s Part Two of the Bill that alarms me the most.  By imposing a quite astonishing range of  requirements on campaigning organisations in the run-up to elections, it would effectively shut down legitimate voices seeking to raise awareness on issues of legitimate public interest, whether it’s on NHS reform, housing policy, or wildlife conservation.   Campaign spending limits for “third party” organisations – such as charities and pressure groups – would be drastically cut, and the definition of what constitutes campaigning broadened.

And there would be new forms of regulation for organisations lobbying on issues at constituency level.
Some of the potential implications of this are frankly terrifying.   In the months preceding an election, it would be harder for campaigners to criticise the policies of a particular political party.  Organisations would have to deal with a new bureaucracy, and  be obliged to constantly ask whether they could continue many of their day-to-day activities.

Perhaps most worryingly, the power to stand up against racist or extremist parties could be curtailed.  So we’d have the perverse situation where the BNP, which as a political party would be exempt from these rules, would be protected, whereas the activities of those campaigning against them would be severely restricted.

We can’t allow this to happen.  I’ve co-sponsored a reasoned amendment to the Bill, and next week will be hosting a meeting with representatives of Unite, Hope not Hate and other affected organisations so they can put their concerns to MPs ahead of the Bill’s committee stage.

They are right to be concerned.  In the name of transparency, the Government has published a frankly chilling Bill which would effectively suppress the debate that it is essential in a healthy democracy.

1 comment:

Trevor said...

Has Anyone Ever Wondered Why It is That some People Choose Become Racist?
I know for example Why I often feel a strong sense of injustice
It is because I Have Seen How Decisions Made By The British Government Has Caused The Public To Go Astray and be seduced into Caring only about what the system Wants us to care about.
for example it is in the system's best interests that the public becomes obsessed with fashion for example
that way it can rake in bags of money and the government can rake in billions in Tax revenue.
so basically What I have figured out is that the government despite Their Attempts To make themselves Look Good
They are in reality Extremely Corrupt and Very Very Wicked.
and Greed is the motivating factor in their case.
Whereas People that Choose to become racist
I think that their motivating factor is insecurity because we are all ruled by people that not fit to play god
and therefore now that they are playing god it is to be expected that they would fail and end up causing more harm than good and that has been exactly the case.
History itself confirms that fact.
Look for example at what governments Have done with regards to Cigarettes.
They decide that they will allow certain people to use tobacco as a means of making a Living.
now despite knowing that that decision causes 100,000 people to die each year
they overlook it because they are blinded by greed.
yet their decision is a classic example of gross injustice and it clearly is not the way to exercise authority.
if you know that smoking tobacco and injecting heroin and snorting all cause harm to the users
you don't decide to legalize one and make the remaining Two illegal when the fact is all Three should be illegal.
but you this is where the gross injustice becomes evident again in that because they are in control they decide what should be in the best interests of the economy first rather than take into consideration their decision will have upon the general public.
Society under the rule of a good government would not learn to abuse themselves with tobacco
and it would be unthinkable for a good government to permit the use of tobacco as a means of exploiting and trapping people into a self destructive habit.
This is why I say again that I feel sorry for people.
yesterday I saw a mother with her 6 month old son and I almost cried when I saw the way she was caring for him.
unlike the government she wasn't putting cigarettes in front of him
or teaching him to develop a habit of playing violent video games etc
or seducing him into becoming reckless.
all these things the British government has done and continues to do.
and because of the greed and corruption of the British government (despite them passing Laws regarding racism)
That vulnerable Little baby is Likely to grow up and decide to start abusing himself by smoking
because that is a common practice in this country and people tend to become influenced by the corrupt air as it were
and that air is given permission to be corrupted by the very ones currently putting on a show of ethics.
that dear baby deserves so much better than to be born into a country that is governed in an unethical way.