Trust letter on new legislation affecting campaigning charities

Trust writes to UK Cabinent Minister on the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.

Copy of letter from the John Muir Trust to Chloe Smith, the UK Cabinet Minister responsible for controversial new legislation which could curb the activities of campaigning charities.

The John Muir Trust is the UK’s leading wild land charity. We campaign at both a local and national level for the better protection of wild land, and for the issues that threaten it be addressed. We are not aligned with any political party or persuasion.

We understand that it may not be the intention of the Transparency of Lobbying Bill to curtail the campaigning activity of organisations such as ourselves, but as currently set out we fear that this is nonetheless the effect if would have.

We share the views of the National Council of Volunteer Organisations, and others, that without amendment Part II the Bill could have the following effects:

Scope: the scope of activities that are caught by the new rules is considerably widened. This means that the number of regulated charities, and other groups will increase substantially. Is it really the intention of the Bill to require organisations such as ourselves to register?

Complexity: the Bill is highly complex and unclear, and runs the risk of discouraging campaigning.

Bureaucratic burden: the Bill gives substantial discretion to the Electoral Commission. This will in turn create a huge regulatory burden on organisations that will be required to analyse and discuss individual campaign actions with the Electoral Commission.

Excessive reporting requirements: the Bill introduces a number of administrative and reporting requirements which are likely to cause a significant bureaucratic burden especially for smaller organisations.

Timing: while the Bill’s provisions are only intended to apply in a specific and time-limited period, the staggered and unpredictable nature of referendums and elections in the UK means that organisations will not be able to predict when activity will come under the regulated period, and organisations will be forced to limit campaigning activity in perpetuity.

We ask you to please consider amending the Bill so that it either does not ‘catch’ organisations such as ourselves, or that it removes these restrictions so we are able to continue to undertake legitimate campaigning.

Stuart Brooks
Chief Executive
John Muir Trust