Charities must have a say on lobbying.

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Charities must have a say on lobbying.

Post  Admin on Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:55 pm

The sector's concerns about the lobbying bill are justified, writes Andy Ricketts

A lot has been said over the past fortnight about the government's lobbying bill, designed to curb the influence of professional lobbyists over parliament.

The bill, which will be debated in the House of Commons on 3 September, proposes a statutory register of consultant lobbyists and a dramatic reduction in the amount that can be spent on "election campaigning" by those not standing for election.

Charities, led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, fear that the sector's campaigning activities could be caught by the legislation and worry that the bill could place restrictions on what charities can say in the lead-up to elections. Given that elections are never very far away, some fear that it would make it near impossible for charities to make their voices heard on some issues.

The Electoral Commission has warned that the rules on campaign spending might be unenforceable because it would be hard to identify when they would apply. It said the bill was unclear on rules concerning what would constitute election-related activities and said it was arguable that the legislation could extend to everyday charitable activities.

The government, for its part, has attempted to play down such fears and has said the bill would not affect campaigning that is not intended to promote the electoral success of any particular party.

But the voluntary sector, possibly wiser for past experiences like the abandoned tax relief cap for high-value donors, is right to be wary. The Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector warned last January that charities' independence has been under increasing threat, including from the government, and this is grist to that particular mill.

The rough ride that the RSPCA has been experiencing from sections of the right-wing press in recent months for its activities demonstrates that legislation that could give the sector's detractors further ammunition would not be welcome.

It goes without saying that anything that could affect charities' ability to speak out needs to be challenged. The sector needs to make its voice heard.

This reply came from a member of the public.............

The RSPCA has had a rough ride in the media for very good reasons.

Did you know that a number of people have committed suicide as a result of the RSPCA's heavy handed investigations? That people lose their jobs because the RSPCA notify their employers that they are being investigated for 'animal abuse'? That people suffer nervous breakdowns, that families break up as a result of RSPCA investigations?

They prosecute the vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled and even children. They prosecute vulnerable groups that other charities such as the Cinnamon Trust are set up to help and ensure that vulnerable and elderly animals and people are kept together, or at the very least, in touch with each other.

They have an incredibly high kill rate even though they stopped taking stray animals and owner surrendered animals some time back.

Animals die in RSPCA 'care'.

For instance Annette Nally discovered that her elderly dog had been dead for months at her trial. Annette was found Not Guilty. Her dog's upset stomach had been caused by the RSPCA throwing unsuitable food t it.

Dean and Dianne Webb were also found Not Guilty. Only their £10,000 breeding stock of pedigree cats had been neutered and sold (or killed). In order to obtain some recompense they will have to risk expensive civil claims against the RSPCA. They are not alone.

Nor are they alone in having their defense costs paid by Central Funds. The RSPCA usually get their experts costs paid by Central Funds. That is you and me and everyone else who pays taxes, whether they support the RSPCA or not. We all pay to support failed prosecutions brought by the RSPCA.

Have you any idea what it is like to answer an SHG help line call to hear the sound of sobbing? Or a broken voice that can barely get the words out? To listen to someone whose life has been ripped away from them? Whose only companion has gone?

And you imply that the RSPCA (and other charities whose activities are questionable) should somehow be protected? That government should not introduce proper controls?

People like the Webbs have suffered the loss of their breeding stock because the RSPCA was able to lobby without limit. The SHG warned parliament that people would lose their animals and when found Not Guilty would have been punished and effectively fined and would have no recourse to justice if the RSPCA was allowed to 'dispose' of animals. Our concerns and objections were ignored. The RSPCA's lobbying power was too great.

The SHG supports this bill and hopes that the government will stand firm. We have seen far too many shattered lives to believe otherwise.

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