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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 February 2014

Campaign against "Lobbying Bill"

Kevin Parslow

The Transparency of Lobbying, Third Party Funding and Trade Union Administration Bill (Lobbying Bill) will become law shortly.

Its main provisions contain big attacks on democratic rights and the independence of trade unions.

What the Bill won't do is curb corporate lobbyists' activities or their ability to give gifts and 'donations' to influence government policy.

All lobbyists will have to do is sign the proposed 'Register of Consultant Lobbyists'.

Originally charities and campaigning organisations would have seen their ability to spend money on political objectives in the year before a general election severely curtailed to just 5,000 before they would have to be registered with the Electoral Commission! After widespread criticism by charities and campaign groups, government ministers amended the bill to raise the limit to 20,000 in England and from 5,000 to 10,000 in the rest of the UK.

Even Labour shadow cabinet member Angela Eagle claimed this legislation "seeks to silence critics of the government in the run-up to the general election, while letting vested interests operate out of sight" and was "an object lesson in how not to legislate".

Trade unions' activities were included in the Bill following the media and political establishment attacks on Unite's political campaign in Falkirk to participate democratically in selecting a Labour parliamentary candidate.

Unions' membership records will be open to inspection at any time by the government-appointed Trade Union Certification Officer.

This will jeopardise data protection and the independence of trade unions. Already, unions have to provide copious details to employers of workers balloting for strike action.

And what safeguards are there to prevent bosses getting details of trade unionists and add names to blacklists?

Unfortunately, trade unions did little more than lobby MPs and peers to oppose the Bill. No mass demos were called in Westminster to mobilise opposition.

Unions should consider non-cooperation with this Act. In the 1970s, most unions refused to register with the National Industrial Relations Court.

After the victory of the Pentonville dockers in 1972 following a mass movement and the threat of a general strike, the Court fell into disuse.

Even though unions are numerically weaker now than in the 1970s, they still have tremendous social weight. A mass campaign should be launched to scrap the provisions of this pernicious legislation.

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In The Socialist 19 February 2014:


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Campaign against "Lobbying Bill"


 

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