Lobbying Bill – impact on third party campaigning
This Bill is about extending that transparency further to give people more confidence in the way third parties interact with the political system. So where third parties campaign in a way which supports a particular political party or its candidates they will be required to fully record and disclose their expenditure on those campaigns. Liberal Democrat MP John Thurso has tabled amendments to the Bill to ensure concerns about the impact on charities are addressed. Nick Clegg welcomes the amendments. We have been clear that we want to take the big money out of politics to prevent our political system from ending up like other countries – where opaque and unaccountable groups like the ‘Super PACs’ that operate in America, spend millions attempting to influence the political system. The Bill changes the range of activities that are deemed to be controlled expenditure to be more in line with those which all political parties face. Controlled expenditure by a recognised third party would now include expenditure on a broader range of activities such as market research, rallies, the provision of services in connection with press conferences/media or transport, advertising, unsolicited mail addressed to electors or manifestos. The Electoral Commission, in its June 2013 report ‘A regulatory review of the UK’s party and election finance laws – Recommendations for change’, proposed that the rules on third party campaigning should be changed so that they more closely reflect the scope of rules for political parties by covering events, media work and polling, as well as election material. That is what we are doing through the Bill. We agree that a wider list of activities more properly reflects the type of campaigning activity that third parties will carry out. It makes little sense for an advert by a third party in support of a political party to be caught, but not a public rally in support of that party. The new lower spending limits are proportionate and still substantial sums (up to £370,000), particularly when considered alongside the fact that the costs of campaigning have fallen in recent years as the use of online tools increases.   Mark A Williams, Chairperson of Chester Liberal Democrats said: “I welcome the news that we are tabling amendments to this bill. It is vitally important that we get this bill right so that all lobbying organisations are treated equally and fairly”

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