After the Cabinet Office appeared to reject calls to reform the Lobbying Act, the minister for civil society Tracey Crouch has promised to work with charities to make sure the rules are understood and give charities “complete confidence” to campaign.
Charities had called for the recommendations of a review by Lord Hodgson to be enacted as soon as possible, saying that the Act in its current form had discouraged the sector from campaigning during the election campaign.
But on Friday the Cabinet Office said it has no plans to amend the Act. It is understood that the reason no action is being taken is because the legislative session is already full.
A rare two-year Parliamentary session began in June 2017, meaning that the government will not bring forward a new Queen’s speech to outline planned legislation until 2019.
Sector leaders said that they were “dismayed” by the government’s refusal to amend the Lobbying Act.
Response from the charities minister
Some of the sector’s concerns about the Act relate to confusion around how aspects of it could be interpreted, with NCVO warning during the election that fear of the law was doing more harm than the law itself – though NCVO still said it wanted the law to be improved.
Crouch has now said that she will work with the sector to make sure it is understood and that charities feel confident campaigning.
In a statement Crouch said: “Charities play an essential role in our democracy. Non partisan campaigning helps raise awareness and funds for important issues and I will work with voluntary bodies and the charity sector to ensure that rules are well understood and that they have complete confidence to continue non-party political campaigning.”
‘Utter contempt for the sector’
The Labour shadow minister Steve Reed reiterated his party’s commitment to repealing the Lobbying Act and again accused the government of treating the sector with contempt.
He said: “It’s shocking that the government are ignoring the Hodgson review’s recommendations. It’s the latest in a long line of decisions which show utter contempt for the sector.
“Yet again this weak government has shown they are afraid to be challenged and fearful of being questioned.
“Over 100 organisations have now publicly called for the government to remove the gag they’ve placed on charities. A Labour government will listen to them and scrap the Lobbying Act so charities can once again speak up for the people they work with.”