Bill will undermine democratic debate

Sir – We write to you as constituents and as representatives from across the charity and voluntary sector in Witney.

There is a lot on which, as individual organisations, we may not agree – but we are united in our concerns about the Bill involving transparency of lobbying, non-party campaigning and trade union administration that is currently in the House of Lords.

Witney has an active charity and voluntary sector and we fear this rushed law could do much to undermine the vibrant democratic debate we are used to.

The legal advice our organisations have received says the Bill would have a chilling effect on the ability of charities and other groups to speak out on the issues we know about.

Had this law been in place at previous elections, its provisions could have prevented historic campaigns – such as those to ban landmines, remove lead from petrol and to give women the right to equal pay.

The Government has belatedly acknowledged some of these problems and granted a short pause in the passage of this Bill.

However, this will be meaningless unless the Government makes significant changes to the Bill.

We urge the Government to accept the recommendations of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, which will shortly publish its second report in relation to the Bill.

Paul Langley, Witney and District Christian Aid Group, Robin Howard, Amnesty International, Chipping Norton, James Legge, Countryside Alliance, Maurizio Fantato, English Trust for European Education

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