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Clause 27 — Changes to existing limits

Part of Access to Mental Health Services – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 10th September 2013.

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Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Labour, Rotherham 6:15 pm, 10th September 2013

I want to speak specifically in support of amendment 66 and more generally about clause 27.

Like several Members, I have had more correspondence about part 2 of this Bill than about any other issue since being elected. The undemocratic nature of the Bill has shocked my constituents, as well as charities across the UK. I urge the Government to listen to the voice of the people and this House and make radical amendments to the Bill rather than try to force something through that is clearly not fit for purpose and has not had adequate consultation.

While I am absolutely in favour of transparency in lobbying, the Government need to make a clear distinction between those lobbying for commercial gain and those trying to engage with the democratic process of bringing about social change that aids the wider population. As it stands, the Bill makes little distinction between a multinational that is pushing Government for a policy to aid their bottom line and a small charity like GROW in my constituency, which campaigns for the voice of vulnerable women in Rotherham. I must apologise, Ms Primarolo, because I need to correct that—the Bill does of course make a distinction, as the multinational could take its lobbyist in-house and thereby circumnavigate the Bill, whereas the charity will be financially burdened and gagged by it.

Clause 27(1) seeks to reduce by 50% the level at which a non-recognised third party such as a charity, voluntary organisation or social enterprise can spend on campaigning before they need to register. If left to stand, the clause will bring thousands, potentially tens of thousands, of charities under regulation for the first time. If this happens, charities that are already facing huge cuts under this Government will be forced to shoulder an immense burden of new administration and a whole tier of extra costs. As a former CEO of charities, I can assure Members that they can ill afford the staffing or financial burden that clause 27 will impose. The reality is that charities will just stop campaigning. This Bill will literally take away their voice and the voice of the millions of people they represent.