Burngreave residents defend democracy

David Blunkett And 38degrees
David Blunkett And 38degrees

Story: Graham Jones | Photo: Mark Jones

On Saturday 7th December 2013 a group of constituents, including people from Burngreave, visited our MP David Blunkett in his Firth Park surgery and handed him a copy of a petition containing more than 200,000 signatures.

The petition—organised by campaign group 38 Degrees—expresses our concerns about the proposed “gagging law” (more formally known as The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill) which is currently going through the House of Lords and is scheduled to become law in May 2014. This law is supposed to address the very real problem of high-powered, big-money corporate lobbying.

Instead—unless it is heavily amended—it will severely limit the abilities of not-for-profit and grassroots organisations to do any campaigning at all during any year in which a general election is to be held. Many people in the Burngreave area will be affected by this legislation which will hit the work of trades unions, charities and a wide variety of other organisations. The National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), which represents 10,000 national and local charities and other organisations (including RSPB, the Ramblers Association, Oxfam, the Royal British Legion and the Salvation Army), states that the gagging law would dramatically reduce what charities and campaign groups can do for an entire year before any election.

Any bodies campaigning locally in Burngreave might find themselves effectively gagged as they might be uncertain whether raising a particular issue would be considered as breaching this law and so the increased red tape and seeking legal advice would prove expensive. The bill also cuts—and caps—the spending of all such organisations, vastly diminishing the ability of the “Davids” to democratically influence policy-making and making it almost impossible for them to function effectively. Strangely enough, these limitations will not apply to the large corporate “Goliaths” which currently donate so much money to the Westminster machine.

In October 2013 we were delighted that our local MP, Mr Blunkett, made a stand for free speech and voted against the initial bill in the House of Commons. The bill has since been amended and is now being pushed quickly through the House of Lords, with very little media coverage. Unfortunately, the amendments do not actually address the concerns of the various people and organisations objecting to this bill.

Although the bill was amended in the House of Lords, on its return to the Commons on 22nd January 2014, these amendments were reversed but in the “ping pong” process it is now going back to the Lords and will be going through the Commons one more time.

Mr Blunkett assured us that he continues to oppose the “gagging law”. He feels that in a healthy democracy, elections should not be the only times that leaders must pay attention to the opinions of “ordinary” people, such as those in our area. Indeed he voted against the amended bill on 22nd January 2014.

Of course, these issues do not only affect the people of Burngreave. All over the country 38 Degrees campaigners are approaching their MPs to highlight our concerns and to help the defeat this draconian legislation which represents a severe threat to British democracy.

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The content on this page was added to the website by Christine Steers on 2014-01-31 15:09:54.
The content of the page was last modified by Kate Atkinson on 2014-02-03 03:12:09.

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