Monday, 2 September 2013

Charities and campaign groups should be allowed to contribute to the debate -

I am both someone who backs campaigns that lobby government and, at times, the recipient of campaigning emails from residents that are part of a wider national or indeed local campaign.

Sometimes I am able to give my personal support to a campaign and have even signed the council to a campaign following residents contacting me about it (the Shelter rogue landlords campaign).  Other times I don't agree with everything or I can't commit the council to it.  

However I always think it is a legitimate and useful thing to hear from campaigners and campaign groups.  

Increasing numbers of the groups that I am supportive of (Hope not Hate, The Fawcett Society, Shelter etc) are concerned about a bill that the government is bringing forward that will have the effect of gagging charities and campaign groups in the year before elections (including local elections).

I'm delighted that if Victoria Groulef was the MP for Reading West she would vote against it.  As she says in her quote below, the almost forgotten idea of the Big Society will be completely hamstrung by the proposals in this bill.
The bill is both too weak to tackle paid corporate lobbyists and penalises genuine campaigning groups - a remarkable bad piece of legislation.

"David Cameron came into Government claiming to be passionate about building the so called 'Big Society' but the fact is that this Bill would hinder the very action the PM claimed he wanted to encourage. Only David Cameron could try and push through a lobbying Bill that wouldn't stop lobbyist Lynton Crosby from advising the PM against plain packets for cigarettes but would prevent a Cancer Charity from speaking out about the deaths that could be prevented.
"Small charities across Reading do much to improve and protect the lives of local people but instead this Bill will try to gag them and tie them up in red tape. It looks like a deliberate attempt by the Tories to prevent the Government’s record and policies from being scrutinised and criticised in the run up to the General Election.

"Labour believes that charities and campaigners should be free to contribute to public debate and that we should be encouraging greater participation, not putting up barriers against it."