It is deeply regrettable that on 22 January MPs rejected key amendments, made in the House of Lords, which would have limited the damage that Part 2 of the Lobbying Bill will do to democratic engagement in this country. The Government has continued to claim that this legislation would not curtail the ability of organisations to campaign, and many MPs have accepted these assurances. But it is not true.
It has been suggested to us that if we wish to campaign during election periods then we should join a political party or form a new one. Of course this is something that we as a campaigning organisation would not want to do.
This legislation will see campaigners and charities subject to restrictions for one year in five of every fixed term parliament. Future governments will now enjoy a “safe” period when they can pass controversial legislation and know that they will face less opposition than they might otherwise have done.
If the law had been as the Government now intends ahead of the 2001 and 2004 general elections we could not have marched, rallied, demonstrated or campaigned as we did against the Labour Government’s legislation to ban hunting.
We would have reached our spending limit very quickly and had to put up and shut up.
It can only be hoped that the House of Lords will show its independence by insisting on its reasonable amendments and exercising its constitutional duty of protecting the constitutional rights of the electorate.