I have had a number of constituents get in touch about the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill – I want to explain why, in my view, this is an important piece of legislation that will improve our democracy and help to keep elections fair.
The Bill has three aims:
1. To make it clear who is lobbying the Government
2. To prevent unlimited election spending by third parties
3. To provide assurance that trade unions know who their members are.
The point of these three aims is to keep our political system transparent and accountable, while maintaining the inalienable right of individuals and organisations to a have a voice in politics.
Lobbying is an important aspect of the democratic process. Indeed, the word ‘lobbying’ comes from the tradition of individuals and organisations meeting their representatives in Central Lobby to discuss policy and legislation. Lobbying allows Ministers and Members of Parliament to pick up detailed knowledge from those concerned with a certain policy area while formulating legislation. The Government wants to ensure that this can continue to happen.
The Transparency Bill would oblige third party lobbying firms who meet with Ministers and senior civil servants to publish a list of their clients. This will mean that the public can see who is lobbing whom about what.
The Bill will also lower the cap on the amount of money third parties can spend in support of election campaigns. In other countries, groups spend millions on advertising and campaigning in favour of one candidate, or opposing another. The cap, which will be lowered to £388,080, will mean that elections are won by the best candidate, rather than the one with the most money.
Some charities have raised concerns about how this will affect their work. I want to be clear – this Bill will only affect a campaign run to promote the election of a particular political party or candidate. This is the same as the legislation that is currently in place and will not be changed by the Bill.
Finally, the Bill will oblige trade unions with a membership of 10,000 or more to appoint an independent assurer to provide a membership audit certificate to the Certification Officer along with their annual return. This will simply mean that trade union membership figures and records will be kept up-to-date, giving greater weight to ballots held by the unions and statements made on members’ behalf.
If you have any questions or concerns about the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.