A QC has warned that the UK Government’s plans to reform lobbying could have a “chilling effect” on the third sector’s ability to speak out on matters of public interest.

The complexities of the bill will make it almost impossible to follow and charities will be in fear of criminal penalties according to Helen Mountfield QC.  Her assessment of the impact that the reforms could have on organisational campaigning and freedom of expression, has been submitted to the Cabinet Office.

The Bill is intended to curtail the influence of lobbying groups and trade unions on Government decision making and limit the amount of spending in advance of elections.  Charities and other non-party groups could find themselves in trouble when campaigning on issues in advance of an election “for political purposes”, if it affects the outcome of an election, regardless of whether that was the intended purpose.

Mountfield writes : “This uncertainty about what the law requires is likely to have a chilling effect on freedom of expression, by putting small organisations and their trustees/directors in fear of criminal penalty if they speak out on matters of public interest and concern.”

The Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) said that “it would be difficult to produce a worse bill”.

Source: the Guardian.

Tags: Governance, Policy, Voluntary organisations