Firms and organisations react to “confusing” Electorial Commission lobbying document
Law firm Bates Wells Braithwaites (BWB) are urging The Electoral Commission to reconsider its guidelines on the lobbying act as its believes the document is far too confusing.
The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 tightened rules on what campaigners can spend on qualifying activities in the period ahead of national elections earlier this year and the Electoral Commission’s 300 pages of guidance focused on the new rules.
BWB sent their own eight-page document to the Commission last week outlining amendments they would like to see made with regards to the format of the paper and lack of consultation before publishing.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, charity leader group Aveco, online campaigning platform 38 Degrees and the international NGOs association Bond are amongst those concurring with BWB.
BWB believe “uncertainty alone will deter legitimate campaigning which ought not to be regulated in law” as they identity fundamental issues with the document.
The firm have also pointed toward the Commissions definition of the public test, which they deem unclear and confusing. A public test describes the way in which an organisation decides if its activities are directed to the public rather than supporters or a private, exclusive group.
However BWB say “it would be helpful to some organisations if there could be a more extensive definition of who is the public.”
An Electoral Commission spokesperson said:
“Feedback on the commission’s guidance from non-party campaigners, which range from charities and faith groups to trade unions and business groups, has largely been positive.
“One of the things people have told us is that they would like more fact sheets to help them better understand the rules, and we are currently working on these.”
Director of public policy at Acevo, Asheem Singh was dissatisfied with his response from the Electoral Commission
“They undertook to make some changes in response to that, but my instinct is that the changes are little more than superficial, which isn’t good enough.
“It is increasingly appearing as if we might have to take stronger action. We are taking legal advice on that right now, we are looking at all of our options.”
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Source: Third Sector