Transparency of Lobbying Bill

Speaking in the House of Commons

Speaking in a debate on the Transparency of Lobbying Bill, Charles Walker raises concerns that organisations waste too much money on hiring professional lobbyists and is concerned that charities could find their legitimate campaigning activities restricted in the run up to the general election.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): Is not the truth that far too many organisations are wasting their members’ money on hiring professional lobbyists and that their chief executives and principles would be far better advised to communicate directly with Members of Parliament, rather than farming that out to third-party organisations?

Ms Eagle: I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but the Government had better get right all the issues of privilege, because otherwise MPs might end up having to be registered as lobbyists, which would be completely ridiculous.

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Mr Charles Walker: I do not have a huge amount of time for 38 Degrees, but I am not going to address my concerns about that organisation. In the run-up to the general election, Mind and Rethink, two charities with which I am closely involved, want to set out a number of challenges for the main political parties. Does the hon. Lady feel that that will be caught by the Bill?

Ms Eagle: It is beholden on the Government to demonstrate that it will not, given that they have widened the meaning of the term “political purposes” and cut the amount of money that can be spent before it is necessary to register; that part of the Bill deals with coalitions and how they account for the cost of what they are doing; and that they have inserted some extremely uncertain definitions of “electoral purposes”. I do not want to get into a Committee-stage debate, but the Government cannot simply declaim that nothing has changed when they have changed, broadened and widened definitions and cut the amount of money that can be spent lawfully during an election period.

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