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Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14
Type of Bill:
The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons by Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley MP, on 17 July 2013. It aims to establish a register of professional lobbyists and a registrar of consultant lobbyists to supervise and enforce the registration requirements.
The main measures of the Bill are:
- To make it an offence to offer consultant lobbying without an accurate and up to date register entry; to fail to supply the information required by an information notice; or to supply inaccurate or incomplete information.
- To change the legal requirements for people or organisations that campaign in relation to elections but are not standing as candidates or a registered political party.
- To change the legal requirements in relation to trade unions' obligations to keep their list of members up to date.
The Government's initial proposals for lobbying reform were published in a White Paper in January 2012 as part of the Coalition's transparency agenda, which was announced in 2010.
The proposals, which included reforms to party funding and trade union rules, came after three peers and a member of Parliament were accused of agreeing to carry out parliamentary work in return for payment.
Following recent scandal around lobbyists using all party groups (APPGs) to lobby MPs, action was taken by the Houses of Parliament to crack down on parliamentary passes. Since June 2013, it has been reported that more than 80 people have had their passes removed, with no further APPG passes to be issued.
Government's initial proposals for lobbying reform were published in a White Paper in January 2012 as part of the Coalition's transparency agenda, which was announced in 2010.
The Association of Professional Political Consultants, said the plans would result in "less transparency" because fewer organisations and individuals would have to register than under the industry's self-regulatory regime. Additionally, the TUC said the Bill failed to tackle "rich corporate lobbyists."
Labour has outlined amendments to the Bill including an amendment to close the "loophole" which would mean Lynton Crosby would "get around" being on the register, and to ensure people doing senior jobs in politics can't also be lobbying without people knowing about it.
On 3 September 2013, the House of Commons held its second reading of the Bill. After a short debate, the Bill was passed to a Committee of the Whole House.
The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill was debated in its first day of committee stage on 9 September 2013. Amendments focussed on part one of the Bill, on defining a consultant lobbyist.
During its second day of committee stage, discussions on the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill focussed on part 2 of the Bill on non-party campaigning. A number of government amendments were agreed, and there were a number of divisions on whether aspects of the Bill should stay.
In the third day of committee debate Labour unsuccessfully pushed a number of amendments to a vote; in relation to membership audit certificates and to address concerns around the privacy and data protection of union members, and potential blacklisting.
Employments relations minister, Jo Swinson argued it was necessary unions be able visibly to demonstrate that they knew who their members were and that they could communicate with them, and that the assurer would be "bound by current data protection rules, as well as by the additional confidentiality provisions set out in clause 37".
Subsequently, the Bill was reported with amendments.
On the first day of the report stage in the House of Commons, the debate focussed on part one of the Bill, regarding consultant lobbying and only government amendments were agreed to. These included the removal of any reference to the 1689 Bill of Rights, with many MPs concerned that it would involve the courts in matters of parliamentary privilege. Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley also sought to reassure the committee that MPs would not be included in the definition of a consultant lobbyist although a Labour amendment seeking to ensure that "critical groups and individuals" were not caught up in the Bill was rejected outright.
An opposition clause relating to a new code of conduct for consultant lobbyists was pressed to a division but defeated.
The government successfully steered the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill through the House of Commons on 9 October 2013 as both report and third reading stages concluded with a number of government amendments agreed to. Having previously committed to making changes to the definition of "controlled expenditure", the government reverted its meaning to the wording of previous legislation and agreed to pause on deciding what qualified as election material until an impact assessment by the Electoral Commission had been undertaken. Chair of the political and constitutional reform committee, Graham Allen's (Lab, Nottingham North) two amendments relating to both the definitions of controlled expenditure and election material were defeated on a division. The Bill will now begin its passage through the House of Lords.
The Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords on 9 October 2013. The Bill held its second reading on 22 October 2013. After a short debate, the Bill was read for a second time and passed to a Committee of the Whole House.
Peers threatened to delay the Bill for three months during the committee stage in the Lords on 5 November 2013. However rather than opting for clauses relating to the restricting campaigning by charities to go to select committee and report by February 2014, as a group of peers suggested, the government instead put this controversial part of its Bill on hold. Discussion of the new charity laws would be put back until the week starting December 16, peers were told.
The amendment that sought to extend the Bill's provisions to in-house lobbyists was withdrawn. Peers also considered amendments that would extend the definition of the Bill to areas of government that had an influence over public policy and decision-taking such as parliamentary private secretaries, senior civil servants and special advisers.
On the second day of committee, Peers called for a delay to the commencement of part 3 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, to allow for a review of regulatory responsibility, was rejected by the government who reminded peers that a revised impact assessment would be available before the legislation was commenced
Other amendments expressing concerns around confidentiality and the assurance process were also withdrawn following government guarantees.