TRANSPARENCY OF LOBBYING, NON-PARTY AND TRADE UNION ADMINISTRATION BILL
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It is important for democracy that campaigning in elections is transparent and properly accounted for something the current arrangements do not provide for. This Bill contains reforms to bring greater transparency and accountability to the political system. However I want to assure you that the measures in the Bill do not affect organisations who do not seek directly to influence the outcome of elections.

In the House of Lords the Government made amendments to the Bill which address the concerns raised about the potential impact of the Bill and existing rules on non-party campaigning at elections. These changes have been welcomed by charities and other groups.

Fundamental to the amendments was the raising of the registration rates to 20,000 for England and 10,000 in each of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This will effectively exempt most campaigning groups and charities who are either small or undertake limited political campaigning from the requirement to register as a third party, and the associated reporting requirements that entails.

Other key Government amendments to which the House agreed were:

Increasing the spending limits in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from the levels originally set out in the Bill, giving an uplift of 20,000 to each nation.

Removing all burdens from low-spending participants in a campaigning coalition by allowing larger campaigners to provide a single report on their behalf.

Removing the requirement for a return, or a nil return, in relation to spending returns, donations reports and statement of accounts, if a recognised third party has not spent above the registration threshold.

A review of the effects of the provisions of Part 2 to report following the 2015 UK Parliamentary General Election, to ensure the regulatory system remains effective and proportionate.

Reducing the length of the 2014/2015 regulated period for non-party campaigning. It will now commence the day after the Scottish independence referendum on 18 September 2014.

An exemption for the costs of translating material from and into Welsh, and for campaign costs relating to disability and security.

It is clear that the Government has listened and taken on board the points made by the sector. I think the amendments made have improved the Bill and I therefore supported the Bill in the votes in the House of Commons.


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