Election Censorship in the UK
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 Offsite Article: Anti-Trade Union bill may restrict political comment from a far wider group...


Link Here 20th August 2013
tuc logo Proposals in a bill slipped out as Parliament broke for the Summer will gag the TUC, trade unions and every campaign group in the country in what can only be seen as a chilling attack on free speech.

See article from touchstoneblog.org.uk

 

 Update: Dictator Dave...

Cameron takes inspiration from Bongoland dictatorships and proposes vague and widespread censorship of political campaigns in the 12 months up to an election


Link Here 26th August 2013
the dictatorThe Electoral Commission , Britain's elections watchdog, has concluded that government plans to censor political campaigning before a general election are flawed and in part unworkable.

In a private briefing sent to interested parties, the commission says that it has significant concerns about the coalition's lobbying bill, that some parts of it may be unenforceable and that it is not at all clear how the new restrictions affecting charities will work.

When the transparency of lobbying, non-party campaigning and trade union administration bill 2013-14 was published in July, the day before MPs broke up for their summer recess, it emerged that, as well as long-expected plans for a statutory register of lobbyists, the bill includes proposals that would drastically censor campaign groups from speaking on political issues in the 12 months before a general election.

In its letter, the commission says the proposed rules about spending at constituency level may be unenforceable , partly because it will often be hard for campaigners to identify with a reasonable level of confidence when an activity has 'no significant effects' in a given constituency .

More broadly, it says the proposed rules about what constitutes election-related activity are not sufficiently clear. The briefing says:

In our view, it is not at all clear how that test will apply in practice to the activities of the many third parties that have other purposes beyond political campaigning. For instance, it seems arguable that the new test could apply to many of the activities of charities, voluntary organisations, blogs, thinktanks and other organisations that engage in debate on public policy.

John Sauven, executive director at Greenpeace , one of more than 100 charity organisations that have expressed concerns about the bill, said the legislation was the most pernicious assault on campaign groups in living memory .

A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said it had significant concerns about the bill and would be explaining them in detail to a select committee in September. The bill's second reading is on 3 September, with its three-day committee stage a week later.

 

 Offsite Article: Disgraceful Gagging Bill Debated in Parliament...


Link Here 5th September 2013
House of Commons logo Your guide to the heated debate surrounding the controversial lobbying bill that could cap charity spending. By Padraig Reidy

See article from indexoncensorship.org

 

 Update: Incompetent Lawmaking...

Government agrees to amend its disgraceful gagging bill


Link Here 6th September 2013
nick cleggA negative public reaction to the government's disgraceful lobbying bill and its effect on censoring campaign groups has led to a promise to make significant changes.

Liberal Democrat sources said the government will retreat on some parts of the lobbying bill as early as next week, after campaign groups raised serious concerns that it would have a chilling effect on their campaigns.

The news comes days after MPs attacked the bill as a dog's breakfast and a mess when it was debated for the first time in the House of Commons.

Labour attacked its sinister restrictions on campaigning by campaign groups a year before an election, while backbench Tories expressed reservations about its impact on free speech.

It is understood the government will offer to remove several controversial clauses, including ones that said campaigning could count as political if it procures success for a candidate, even if it does not endorse a specific party. Charities from Oxfam to the Royal British Legion feared this could make them subject to spending limits on political campaigning in the year before an election.

Sources close to Nick Clegg said the amendments would mean no extra charities or third parties would be caught by the restrictions, though some that faced limits in 2010 would still be affected by new limits.

Even with the promised concessions, the lobbying bill will still mean third parties are subject to tougher restrictions on political campaigning.

The Electoral Commission has warned the new spending limits could mean it would have to ask groups in breach of the law to take down blogs or stop political rallies. The watchdog said the bill would create a high degree of uncertainty.

 

 Update: Government Gagging for Repression...

Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement suggest that the government should rewrite its Lobbying Bill which will be used to censor campaigners in the year before a general election


Link Here 11th December 2013
commission civil society The Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement has published its action plan to protect democracy from the chilling effect of the Lobbying Bill which is seeking to censor campaigners on political issues.

The Commission warns that Part 2 of the Bill is so broadly drafted it would restrict campaigning in the whole year before an election. Parliamentary candidates only have to account for their spending in the few months before an election.

The report recommends that Ministers should urgently rewrite the Lobbying Bill to prevent significant damage to legitimate campaigning. It also sets out a twelve point action plan to ensure transparent and proportionate regulation in election periods. It warns urgent action is needed to improve a Bill that the Electoral Commission has described as unenforceable in parts and which legal advice has warned will have a chilling effect on campaigners.

The Commission's recommendations include:

  • Treating campaigners in the same way as political parties by excluding staff costs from spending limits
  • Reducing the period covered by the legislation to six months ahead of an election instead of a year
  • Dropping the proposed tightening of spending caps for campaigners
  • Doubling the current spending levels at which campaigners have to register with the Electoral Commission
  • Scrapping the proposed constituency spending limit which the regulator warned may be unenforceable

 

 Offsite Article: It's a bleak midwinter for Britain's democracy...


Link Here 18th December 2013
index logo Gagging bill latest: Fears for NGOs and free speech as UK's Lobbying Transparency bill threatens to put kibosh on campaigning

See article from indexoncensorship.org