Civil Society and Lobbying - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:27 pm on 8th September 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues) 2:27 pm, 8th September 2016

My Lords, I thank the Minister and all the speakers. I obviously regret that the response to the report from the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, was not forthcoming. I look forward to hearing the outcome of the meeting and I hope that it might be transmitted to the whole of your Lordships’ House.

I also regret that the Government are only pausing the anti-advocacy clause. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Black, who said that charities provide care and voice. That has been the overwhelming view of those who have spoken today. The front-line experience—that day-to-day contact that charities have—is essential to feed back into the legislative process, adding a voice that would not otherwise be heard. My noble friend Lord Chandos may be right when he says that the Government seem to want a silent society. It is no good saying that charities can find other funds for their policy and advocacy work. As my noble friend Lord Griffiths said, that is fine if you are running a charity looking after children, or indeed animals. It is very easy to raise money then. However, it is much more difficult if you are doing it for unpopular causes. Those of us involved in those areas are highly dependent on public funds and there is not necessarily other money available to look after those broader interests.

I should have declared my interest as a charity trustee and, indeed, as a proud member of the National Trust. If every organisation were as popular as that, we should all be very grateful. We have heard today about the extraordinary work being done by NOAH, Unionlearn, St John Ambulance, the Cat Protection League, Quick Reads, Carers and all sorts of organised charities, the stress on their potential for innovation and about the fruits of their experience that otherwise are not discovered. Therefore, I hope that the Minister’s final words about listening and taking back our comments to whichever department they concern will happen. I think that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby said that these charities are a precious part of our democratic ecology. To continue their work they need a relationship with the Government which is not where it is at the moment. At present, they feel that the Government want to tie them up in anti-advocacy clauses and prevent them lobbying. That surely is not good for any of us.

On behalf of the whole House, I add my thanks to my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, who have taken on particular roles. We look forward to the future work of the Select Committee. Charities are much loved by this House. We hope that we can trust the Government to be a great help rather than a hindrance to them.

Motion agreed.