Steve Votes against Gagging Bill

(October 09, 2013)

Steve Supports Scrapping the Gagging Bill

Today I voted against the gagging bill. Here is why:

  • David Cameron promised to fix our broken politics, but this Bill makes things worse and not better
  • The Bill would do nothing to ensure greater transparency in the Government’s relationship with the ‘Big Six’ energy companies
  • It would do nothing to stop lobbyist Lynton Crosby from advising the Prime Minister on tobacco policy - but could stop an organisation like Cancer Research UK from campaigning about it
  • Part two of the Bill amounts to a sinister gag on charities and campaigners
  • With their amendments to part two, the Government have barely touched the problem. A loosened gag is still a gag
  • It is no wonder the public think David Cameron stands up for the wrong people
  • This is a bad Bill that does not have our support. The Government must go back to the drawing board and come forward with proposals for genuine reform
  • Only Labour will deliver the real reform our politics so badly needs

It makes lobbying less transparent

  • The Bill would only capture a tiny minority of the lobbying industry. It is a ‘lobbyist’s charter’ that would have done nothing to prevent the very scandals the Prime Minister warned against
  • It is so useless it would have no effect on Lynton Crosby, the lobbyist at the heart of Downing Street.
  • With no code of conduct or sanctions for bad behaviour, the Bill is a step backwards from the current voluntary register that already governs parts of the industry
  • This Bill is so bad that it has achieved the unique feat of uniting transparency campaigners and the lobbying industry against it: both say it will make things worse, not better
  • Labour supports real reform of the lobbying industry, which is why we will table amendments to the Bill to bring in a universal register of all professional lobbyists with a code of conduct backed by sanctions

It is a gag on charities and campaigners, while failing to address the real ‘big money’ in politics

  • The Bill is a sinister gag on charities and campaigners in the run-up to an election. It will have a chilling effect on the quality of our national debate
  • David Cameron used to evangelise about the Big Society, but this is an assault on it
  • This is a cynical attempt by the Government to insulate their record and their policies from legitimate, democratic criticism
  • Keeping the big money out of politics is key to bringing people back into it, but the big money in politics today is spent by political parties, not by charities and campaigning groups
  • Labour supports transparency for third party campaigners. We originally set a cap on third party spending in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, to ensure that we could never become like America. But this isn’t about transparency, it is about gagging charities and campaigners, while doing nothing to address the real ‘big money’ in politics

Other criticisms of the Bill

  • There has been no consultation on the Bill and it has come under sustained criticism from political and constitutional experts and the voluntary sector
  • The Government are rushing this through Parliament so that charities and campaigners will be hit before the next election
  • This is a wasted opportunity for political reform. Instead, the Government is using this Bill to make cheap partisan attacks on civil society and on trade unions

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