Lobbying laws have a “chilling effect” on charities
A crossbench peer has warned that charities have been frightened into curtailing public work by a new lobbying law.
Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, said that good causes were worried that their activities might be in breach of The Lobbying Act.
The legislation was introduced to tighten up regulations on campaign spending during election periods. But Lord Harries said the tougher rules could have unintended consequences.
“We’ve had clear evidence that a number of campaigning groups have already decided not to campaign or not to join with other bodies to campaign on an issue because they are frightened of running foul of the act,” Lord Harries told BBC Radio 4 last month.
The new rules require charities which spend more than £20,000 in England or £10,000 in the rest of the UK on “regulated” activities to register with the Electoral Commission as non-party campaigners.
Charities which don’t abide by the new rules can be fined tens of thousands of pounds, which has led to a “chilling effect” among organisations frightened about the consequences of non-compliance.
The Electoral Commission has previously defended the new laws.
“Where a significant amount of money is being spent on campaigning, it’s right that voters can see who is spending that money and what outcome they are campaigning for,” said a spokesman.
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