Monday, 9 September 2013

Let's stop the gagging law

You might have heard about the “gagging law” currently being voted on by MPs. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s really bad news. If it goes through, it will have a chilling effect on British democracy and on our right to speak up on the issues that matter to us.

Basically, the law slashes the spending limits on campaigning for the year before any election. Campaigns that have impact don’t cost the earth, but they aren’t free.

Community groups, charities and campaigning organisations would all be hit. Election time is when ordinary people have the most influence on our politicians. On the big issues of the day – whether or not to go to war, the future of our NHS, the environment, welfare, immigration, etc. – we'd all be gagged.

The problem is that this law has come out of nowhere and not many people have heard what’s going on. If we’re going to defeat it, we need to get the word out further. If every single person who’s ever joined a local campaign group or taken action with their favourite charity knew that they could be stopped from doing that again, the outcry could explode.

How can we leave political lobbying in the run up to elections to big business? Charities represent millions of individuals whose voice would be lost. Let's stop this undemocratic bill.

Here’s a simple five minute video you can watch for more information. Can you take a look, and then help get the word out by passing it on to your friends and family?




Afterword

The Bill passed its second reading with 309 MPs voting in favour, 247 against. The Bill now moves to the committee stage where detailed examination takes place.

Certainly the Bill lacks clarity. This was indicated in the debate by Mr Lansley for the government:

"I had conversations yesterday with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which helpfully supplied us with a copy of its legal advice, which of course illustrates that, technically, the uncertainties that are being talked about could in large part be construed to relate to existing legislation rather than the Bill that we are bringing forward. In truth, it is the responsibility of the Charity Commission, where charities are concerned, and the Electoral Commission for all third parties, to work together to ensure the soundness of the definitions in the Bill." 

No clarity there then!

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