Sir – We, as democratically-elected members of West Oxfordshire District Council, are extremely saddened by the recent passage of the Lobbying Bill through Parliament.

We are equally frustrated that at a recent meeting of the council the ruling Conservatives failed to allow an important motion on this issue to be debated and scrutinised by councillors.

The problem with this poorly-thought-out piece of legislation is that its intended purpose was to target corporate lobbyists but, due to loopholes, they remain largely unaffected.

Charities, church groups and trades unions however will bear the brunt. There was widespread opposition to this legislation. Even the House of Lords couldn't command a majority in favour.

Only Parliamentary rules on tied votes allowed the Bill to go through and become law. From the much respected former Bishop of Oxford to over 75 registered charities, thousands have expressed their views but sadly the Government has ploughed on regardless. Even the United Nations expressed its concern.

Whatever happened to the Big Society and power being passed down to communities?

Democracy and free speech are cherished attributes of an open and free society. Sadly Britain has taken a dramatic step backwards and we will ultimately pay the price.

David Snow (Independent), Witney North; Duncan Enright (Labour), Witney East; Andrew Coles (Labour), Witney Central; Eve Coles (Labour), Chipping Norton; Julian Cooper (Lib Dem), Woodstock & Bladon; Liz Leffman (Lib Dem), Charlbury & Finstock; Larry Poole (Lib Dem), Eynsham & Cassington; Dr Elizabeth Poskitt (Lib Dem), Woodstock & Bladon; Geoff Saul (Labour), Chipping Norton.