The Lobbying Bill is set to become law, after the House of Lords approved it in January during its third and final reading.
During the Bill’s process, amendments were set in place, including how charities and other groups would be allowed to speak out on key issues during the year before a general election.
The Bill had threatened to put a tight rein on spending, which charities claimed would have affected many groups organising meetings, including those churches that organise election hustings.
The House of Lords backed an amendment that would exclude staffing costs, which the Christian Institute described as the ‘lifeblood’ of many charities and respectable campaign groups.
However, a second amendment, backed by former Bishop of Oxford Lord Harries, which would have relaxed the rules on third-party spending in individual constituencies and exempt some staff costs from campaign spending limits, failed on a technicality.
The wider ramifications of the Bill will be felt keenly by charities, according to former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.
Writing in Christian Today before the third reading of the Bill, he said, ‘The problem is that a Bill, designed to increase transparency in our democracy and to curtail unaccountable and potentially corrupt influence, could have the unintended effect of burdening and weakening these civil society agencies in a way that is seriously bad news for democracy.
‘We hope that the government will think again about the potential danger of this legislation for the freedom of civil society groups to participate in public debate in the run-up to elections’.