When is a draw not a draw?

29 January 2014

Jane Harrisby Jane Harris

It's official. The Lobbying Bill has now passed the House of Lords. And what's almost worse, the final vote was a tie: 245 votes for, 245 votes against. By a quirk of parliamentary procedure, that means the government wins and the bill will become law in a matter of weeks or even days.

We are pretty devastated. We think it's important for charities to speak out about the issues that matter to the British public. But this bill will reduce everyone's ability to do that.

Campaigning charities are part of what makes democracy work — we bring to light problems and suffering that otherwise would be ignored. We take that responsibility very seriously. So here's what we're going to do:

  • We will talk to the people writing the guidance on the bill, to try and minimise any negative impact this law could have on us raising the issues that disabled people say matter to them.
    Charities are already regulated to make sure that they are never in any way 'party political', and we hope the guidance on the new law will reflect that, even though the bill itself doesn't.
    There is a tiny glimmer of hope — it has already been confirmed that charities won't have to keep timesheets for staff, but instead can make a 'reasonable estimate' of staff costs. Whatever the guidance says, the bill will still affect us, but sensible guidance will at least help.
  • We will log every single time the new law and guidance stop us raising an issue or trying to make policies work better for disabled people. Then we will show politicians of all parties and the media this evidence and use it to argue for a much better law.
  • We will keep speaking up for the issues that matter to disabled people's lives as much as we can within the new law.

Perhaps the most important lesson for us and other charities is how important campaigning is. With just one more vote in the House of Lords, we would still be in with a chance of getting crucial changes to this bill. That is reason to continue campaigning as much as we possibly can. It really does make a difference.

If you want to make a difference to the lives of disabled people, join our campaigns network.

Jane Harris is managing director for campaigns and engagement at Leonard Cheshire Disability.

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