Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Yes we can!

So the Lords have come up trumps! We won the amendment to remove constituency limits in the Lobbying Bill. Acevo welcomed the Government changes to the Bill but we said there were 2 remaining obstacles; staff costs (we won that one last week) and constituency limits.

It’s actually quite unusual to win an amendment at the third reading stage of a Bill. As reported by Politics Home,

"16:55 Peers vote 248-222 on #LobbyingBill 3rd Reading (tad unusual) amendt re: NGO/charity campaigning activity."

It reflects the strength of feeling across parties on this measure and the power of the cross-sector Commission on Civil Society that ACEVO helped form.

So the pressure is now on government not to try and overturn these changes in the Commons. That would be unwise and I urge them to accept the strength of feeling on these 2 issues. They are both major changes to the previous electoral regime and represent a huge barrier to charities playing their full role in the democratic process; engaging with the top national debates and ensuring challenge and scrutiny for our putative legislators. This lobbying bill has done significant damage to our international reputation and the standing of our charity sector. Good sense would point to the Government accepting this cross-party consensus. 

The wider message is one I'm going to talk about tonight at our ACEVO AGM. We faced a range of challenges last year. But we go into 2014 in an optimistic frame of mind. Our message about how democracy relies on a vibrant civil society and how our public services need more third sector delivery is gaining traction.

I got the good news whilst having dinner in Westminster with a fundraiser for social finance. I raised a glass to our wise and sensible Lords, and to the skill and sagacity of The Lord Harries of Pentagarth who has so expertly led the Civil Society Commission.

I’ll post my AGM speech later. Bet you can't wait! Which reminds me that Twitter has been alive with comments on my recent leadership article in the Guardian. Headlined "leave your ego at the door" it has divided those who got the irony and those who were outraged. It certainly got a titter round the office - though I can't imagine why? And proves the point that a great headline gets your articles read!

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