Lobbying Bill receives royal assent

Following agreement by both Houses on the text of the Bill it received Royal Assent on 30 January. The Bill is now the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014.

A House of Commons Library Standard Note on Campaigners and Part 2 of Transparency of Lobbying etc Act 2014 was published on 18 February 2014. It gives details of the main changes the Act makes to the regulation of third parties which register to campaign at general elections.

The Bill returned to the Lords for consideration of Commons changes on Tuesday 28 January 2014.

A Lords amendment to tighten the definition of ‘controlled expenditure’, removing the administrative burden on third party campaigners, including charities, was not agreed to by the Commons. A proposal to reinsert the amendment was taken to a vote. Members voted 231 in favour and 249 against, so the amendment was rejected.

Members of the Lords also voted again on staffing costs relating to activities covered by the new regulations. Peers had earlier voted to exclude ‘background staff costs’ to aid charities and campaigning groups. The Commons disagreed with the change and members of the Lords voted to reinstate the proposal – 245 voted in favour and 245 against. Where the vote is tied, the amendment is not agreed, so the change was not included in the bill.

The Act:

  • introduces a statutory register of consultant lobbyists and establishes a Registrar to enforce the registration requirements
  • regulates more closely election campaign spending by those not standing for election or registered as political parties
  • strengthens the legal requirements placed on trade unions in relation to their obligation to keep their list of members up to date.

Background information and resources

On 12 December 2013, the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) wrote to peers raising concerns about the measures in the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.

On 2 September, Compact Voice wrote to the Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform raising concerns that the provisions in the Bill compromise the independence of voluntary sector organisations.

On 6 September, the Government announced that it ‘will act on amendments to the Transparency Bill after a meeting with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)’.

On 4 October, the Government published its amendments to the Lobbying Bill. NCVO’s response was that ‘the amendments do not go far enough, and the assurances given by ministers on the floor of the house have not been met’. NCVO published a submission on the Bill on 28 November 2013.

The Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement was launched in September 2013 to investigate the impact of the proposed legislation on civil society following concerns that it will have a chilling effect on charities and campaigning organisations speaking out on issues of public concern ahead of general elections. In October 2013, the Commission published a report: Non Party Campaigning Ahead of Elections.

Charities and the Lobbying Act: Frequently asked questions (NCVO, March 2014)