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Clause 27 — Changes to existing limits

Part of Access to Mental Health Services – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 10th September 2013.

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Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 5:45 pm, 10th September 2013

I agree with my hon. Friend on that point.

As I was saying, our amendment is designed to return us to the status quo on thresholds and to help protect smaller charities and groups from being caught by legislation, making it virtually impossible for them to participate in the democratic process. That must be right, and the Electoral Commission has suggested, as I pointed out earlier, that the threshold should be raised. Let me quote from the evidence given by Jenny Watson to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee:

“We said again in our written evidence that one practical thing that could be done to make a difference to the Bill would be to raise the thresholds at which people have to register, and we have a particular concern about that as it relates to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, because those thresholds are low.”

Let me ask the Government why the voice of the regulator is being so badly ignored in respect of this legislative process. Why is the Electoral Commission being ignored? We will listen with interest to the Minister’s response on that point.

As far as the limits for controlled expenditure are concerned, our position is clear: the limits need to be defined in the context of meaningful reform of the funding of political parties and of their ability to throw big money at election campaigns. In other words, the Government need to withdraw the Bill and to rethink. They need to enter into meaningful negotiations with the other political parties and to commit to proper consultation and scrutiny of proposals as they emerge, in relation to both political parties and the third sector.

In concluding my remarks, I ask the Minister to think again about not just specific points in this clause, but something more fundamental. The Minister is a Liberal Democrat; I ask him to take back to his Conservative partners the message that the Government’s whole approach to this issue needs to be looked at again. “Think again” is our message to the Government, who should commit to discussions designed to produce meaningful reform within which we can place sensible changes to the rules on third party funding—changes that we can consult on with confidence, knowing that we have done the right thing overall in changing our politics for the better.