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Campaigning groups must be encouraged not censored

A Green councillor has called for the Coalition’s controversial Lobbying Bill to be amended to maintain basic democratic freedoms for campaigning groups. The call comes after Bristol West MP Stephen Williams pulled out of a public meeting in Bristol, organised by the campaign group 38 Degrees, to discuss the Coalition’s controversial Lobbying Bill.

The Bill, which limits the amount of money charities, NGOs and campaign groups can spend in the lead-up to a General Election, last week passed from the Commons to the Lords on its third reading, with Stephen Williams MP voting in support.

Rob Telford, Green councillor for Ashley ward and Green Party national spokesperson on democratic reform said:

"Many people in the community, charity and voluntary sector will feel that the lobbying bill is a curb on their ability to push an issue in order to change government policy. Charitable organisations already have their work cut. Austerity means people have less money to give to charities and therefore fundraising becomes so much more difficult."

"It is disappointing that Stephen will not be attending, but despite this it is important that citizens of Bristol come together and share plans for the next step in opposing the bill."

The Bill will reduce the total that registered campaigners can spend on regulated activity in the year before the general election by 60%-70%. All relevant spending on the defined activities will count towards these thresholds.

There are also concerns around the definition of “controlled expenditure”. The all-party group on Parliamentary Reform tabled many amendments, including Amendment 101, which would ensure that expenditure aimed at highlighting a particular issue or issues, rather than promoting a particular party or parties or candidate or candidates, is not caught by the expenditure controls.

The meeting will go ahead without the presence of the MP tonight (Thursday 17th October), from 7.30pm at St Stephen’s Church in the city centre. The meeting will be chaired by the Revd Canon, Tim Higgins, and the speakers are Becky Jarvis and Belinda Turffrey from 38 Degrees.

For more information, contact Rob Telford on 07756355547

Notes

- The details of the Bristol public meeting can be found at: http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2013/09/30/gagging-law-come-to-a-meeting-with-stephen-williams/

- The key concerns of many civil society groups can be found here: http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2013/10/07/lobbying-bill-report-stage-what-we-are-asking-mps-to-do/

- More information on the Green Party’s democracy policy can be found at: http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/pa

- The Green Party aims to create a just, equitable and sustainable society. We focus our efforts primarily, though not exclusively, through the electoral system.

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