The Transparency of Lobbying Bill has given rise to concerns in the charity sector as to the impact this may have on their ability to influence policy development particularly in the run up to future General Elections.
At its heart this issue is about where policy work crosses over into campaigning. The charity sector enjoys a very high reputation with the public. In large part this is because the sector is simultaneously takes in all political parties and yet belongs to none.
In recent years some charities have tested the campaigning “boundaries” and there is a risk that beyond a certain point public trust and confidence could be lost.
The Bill certainly needs improvement during its passage through the House of Lords – the financial limits are too low, the guidance of the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission needs to be integrated into one and the wording of various clauses needs to be tightened up.
But, at its heart, the central theme of the Bill – that everyone should know who is pushing for what and that the influence of big money that has disfigured US politics should not become part of our political life – are worthy objectives.