Almost 40 charities, campaign groups, academics, thinktanks and online networks have joined together in a diverse coalition united against the lobbying bill.
The alliance includes well-known organisations such as Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Royal British Legion and the Wildlife Trust.
The transparency of lobbying, non-party campaigning and Trade union administration bill will have its second reading at the House of Lords on Tuesday.
Under the legislation, any organisation promoting a political message during the run up to an election could face the electoral commission.
Andre Chadwick, professor of political science at the Royal Holloway University of London, argued the lobbying bill could be harmful to society.
He said, “I have spent 15 years researching the changing ways in which citizens engage in the political process. I’m concerned that the current version of the lobbying bill could have an extremely detrimental effect on citizens’ options for political participation, and that would be very harmful for democracy.”
The coalition of civil society organisation launched a commission to reform the government’s lobbying bill in September. The commission will investigate the impact of the proposed legislation on civil society.
Toni Pearce, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said, “This bill had been woefully lacking in consultation, was ill thought out and remains poorly drafted, but most importantly, it threatens to undermine vital democratic freedoms.
“It is now time for the government to listen to civil society organisations about the positive role our voices not only do have, but can and should have, in the democratic process.”
The joint committee on human rights has also called for a “pause” in the legislation to allow concerns around free speech to be addressed. The committee’s report stated that the bill was introduced with “undue haste”.
Leading human rights lawyer Helen Mountfield has also strongly criticised the bill. She stated that it could have “a chilling effect on the expression of views on matters of public interest by third sector organisation”.
The opaqueness of lobbying, party-serving, trade-union bashing and charity gagging bill is bas legislation
Lobbying bill threatens charities’ free speech, says leading human rights lawyer
The lobbying bill is a threat to democratic debate. It must not pass
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