The Gagging Law Explained

9 Sep

Email sent out via the campaign group 38degrees:

Tomorrow, MPs vote on the gagging law for a second time. They’ll walk into the vote knowing that they’re under pressure. Together, 38 Degrees members have done a magnificent job of making the issue huge.

We’ve sent over 46,000 personal, original emails to Chloe Smith, the minister responsible for the gagging law, and nearly 150,000 emails to our own MPs before and after the first vote. Nearly 2,000 of us called our MPs last Monday, and 77 MPs have been visited by 38 Degrees members in person. Thank you for everything you’ve done so far – but there’s still lots more to do.

On Friday, it seemed that the government had given ground. And there were media reports saying that “ministers have been forced into a U-turn”. That’s not true. There’s a really long way to go before we’re safe to claim victory. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations said that parts of the gagging law are still “neither clear nor workable”, and that “… civil society may still be subject to ambiguous and damaging legislation”.

If we’re going to defeat the gagging law, we need to get the word out further. If everyone who’s ever joined a local campaign group or taken action with their favourite charity knew that they could be stopped from doing that again, the public outcry would explode.

The good news is that there’s something we can do about this. Together, we number over 1.8 million people. That’s five times more than the circulation of the Guardian, the same as the circulation of the Daily Mail -and four times the population of Liverpool.

Simply put, we have quite a reach. So let’s use it. Can you help to get the word out by sharing this five minute video explaining the gagging law in simple terms? The more people who know what’s going on and what’s at risk, the more chance we have of making the outcry too big for the government to ignore.

Here’s the link to the video. If everyone who gets this email sends it to just one person who hasn’t heard of the gagging law, we could make sure that millions of people across the UK know what the government’s planning. Could you share it with your friends and family now? https://secure.38degrees.org. uk/gagging-law-video

Here’s a paragraph which you can include with the video, or you could just press forward on this email:

You might have heard about the “gagging law” currently being voted on by MPs. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s really bad news. If it goes through, it will have a chilling effect on British democracy and on our right to speak up on the issues that matter to us.

Basically, the law slashes the spending limits on campaigning for the year before any election. Campaigns that have impact don’t cost the earth, but they aren’t free.

Community groups, charities and campaigning organisations would all be hit. Election time is when ordinary people have the most influence on our politicians. On the big issues of the day – whether or not to go to war, the future of our NHS, the environment, welfare, immigration, etc. – we’d all be gagged.

The problem is that this law has come out of nowhere and not many people have heard what’s going on. If we’re going to defeat it, we need to get the word out further. If every single person who’s ever joined a local campaign group or taken action with their favourite charity knew that they could be stopped from doing that again, the outcry could explode.

Here’s a simple five minute video you can watch for more information. Can you take a look, and then help get the word out by passing it on to your friends and family? https://secure.38degrees.org. uk/gagging-law-video

Thanks for everything you do,

Susannah, Becky, Blanche and the 38 Degrees team

PS: The sooner we see the back of this damaging law, the sooner we can return to campaigning on the issues that matter to all of us. We’re committed to working together on the NHS, on MP pay, on fracking – and this week, there were developments in our legal aid and zero hours campaigns. There’s hundreds of other issues that we’ll act on together too. But first, we need to defeat the gagging law.

Share the video with your friends and family now: https://secure.38degrees.org. uk/gagging-law-video

NOTES:

The Guardian: Ministers make U-turn over ‘gagging’ anti-lobbying laws after public outcry: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/sep/06/ministers-retreat-anti-lobbying-laws-charities

Here’s the full statement from National Council for Voluntary Organisations (http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/): ‘The government’s commitment to abandon the change to the test of what constitutes non-party campaigning is a significant step in the right direction. When the new wording is published we will take legal advice and also urgently seek the view of the Electoral Commission, to ensure the revised test meets the spirit and the letter of policy intent set out by government.

The revised test should ensure that for charities operating within charity law, their activities should not be subject to registration with the Electoral Commission and therefore the regulation outlined in part two of the

We remain concerned that other voluntary organisations in civil society may still be subject to ambiguous and damaging legislation. NCVO believes in a society where freedom of speech, the freedom to associate and the right to free and fair elections are all similarly inviolable.

The proposed definition of controlled expenditure remains neither clear nor workable for non-charitable voluntary organisations. We remain similarly concerned that the expenditure thresholds proposed in the new bill will be damaging, particularly for small community groups that are not charities. These must be restored at current levels. The question of how to sensibly regulate groups working in coalition remains to be addressed.

If a revised test of what constitutes non-party campaigning by charities, together with a clear definition of controlled expenditure and unchanged expenditure thresholds, cannot be achieved, we will continue to argue for the withdrawal of part two of the Bill.

We will continue to work with the broad range of organisations expressing concerns, as well as with government and with the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, to ensure we get legislation that recognises and does not undermine the valuable role undertaken by charities’ and community groups.’

The Guardian: ABCs: National daily newspaper circulation March 2013: http://www.theguardian.com/media/table/2013/apr/12/abcs-national-newspapers Liverpool Council website: Population: http://liverpool.gov.uk/council/key-statistics-and-data/data/population/

Copyright ©2013. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reproduced elsewhere without the authors’ permission.

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