The Liberal Democrat lead for the voluntary sector Martin Horwood MP has said that reviewing the effect of the Lobbying Act on charities will be his “first priority for an incoming Liberal Democrat government”.
His remarks come in a new publication, The Yellow Book of the Voluntary Sector, published by Acevo and the Charities Aid Foundation. The document contains no specific reference to part one of the Lobbying Act which mandates the implementation and operation of the lobbying register.
The MP for Cheltenham uses the publication to accept that the Lobbying Act has damaged relations between the Lib Dems and the charity sector while hinting there could be new legislation to address the problem.
Horwood writes in the document: “The Liberal Democrats wanted a bill of this kind, firstly because it was a faltering first step towards controlling the professional lobbying industry and second because of the risk that campaigning organizations, yes even voluntary ones, were beginning to send us down the American path of uncontrolled political spending by third parties.
“My first priority for an incoming Liberal Democrat government would be look afresh at how that Act is affecting charities and restate, in legislation if we have to, the critically important role voluntary organisations have to play in our democracy.
“We must safeguard that hard-won principle that if a charity finds from its work with the poor or the disadvantaged, with animals or the environment, in sport or art or local communities, that something is wrong then they have not only the legal right but the moral duty to do something about it – and about its cause not just its symptoms.
“In doing so, we may help to repair a political rift with bruised Liberal Democrat parliamentarians. But much more importantly, we will make a statement about what the voluntary sector is for. It was never just a job, just a business. Independent, innovative, imaginative, caring, non-profit organizations shouldn’t just be service providers, they should be an active part of our democracy and society with members and campaigners as well as supporters and employees.”