For a bill purportedly about transparency, the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill has quite a lot of muddied water swirling around it at the moment. Leader of the House Andrew Lansley is currently giving evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee on the legislation, which many fear has all sorts of unintended consequences (it’s worth reading Mark Wallace on ConHome for more detail on the potential problems).
But the chair of the Committee, Graham Allen, is an outspoken critic of the Bill. He thinks it’s a dog’s breakfast (Douglas Carswell recently went one better, saying ‘far more thought has gone into pet nutrition’, and Paul Flynn has just described it as a ‘legislative atrocity’), and as well as running a series of emergency hearings on the legislation, has a motion down for the second reading of the bill in the Commons this afternoon, which calls for a delay in the legislation. The motion, signed by Green MP Caroline Lucas, says:
‘That this House affirms its belief in the need for a Bill on lobbying; declines to give Second Reading to a Bill which requires further pre-legislative scrutiny and consultation; and considers that a Special Committee of the House should be set up with the remit of producing an improved Bill to be presented to the House within six months.’
Lansley has just told the Committee that ‘we don’t have the luxury to say let’s come back in six months’ time’, while saying that ‘for my sins’ he has ended up working on this legislation along with Chloe Smith, Jo Swinson and Tom Brake. The poor chap doesn’t exactly have a great history when it comes to legislation progressing smoothly through the Commons.
But there’s a political point worth considering. All the anger from charities about the effects of this bill has drowned out the fun Tory strategists were hoping to have with the trade unions, who they decided to hit as part of this bill when the lobbying scandal first arose. The Trades Union Congress conference starts in Bournemouth this weekend: the Conservatives will be hoping they can cut through the noise about this transparency bill before then so they can have their fun.