Charities to seek more concessions

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The Government has been forced to make fresh concessions over its controversial Lobbying Bill in an attempt to head off a damaging defeat over new rules on campaign spending by charities.

Ministers were yesterday to due table a series of amendments to the Bill easing the restrictions on how much charities and other non-party organisations can spend in the run-up to a general election, amid claims they would have a “chilling” effect on their campaigning activities.

While campaigners have welcomed the changes, they warned that Ministers still faced defeat when the Bill comes back to the House of Lords next week, unless there are further concessions.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth, who chairs the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement – an umbrella group representing more than 100 non-government organisations – said there were still “major issues” to be resolved.

“I would like to congratulate all charities and campaigning organisations for bringing about a significant change of heart by Government,” he said. “However there are still some major issues that need to be resolved.”

The main changes include dropping a plan to cut the amount charities in England can spend on campaigning during the “regulated” period before a general election before they have to register with the Electoral Commission from £5,000 to £10,000. Instead the limit will now be raised to £20,000.