Feature Briefing

Is lobbying legislation chilling public debate on health?

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4225 (Published 12 September 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j4225
  1. Adrian O’Dowd, freelance journalist, UK
  1. adrianodowd{at}hotmail.com

Health campaigners are pressing for changes to a law they claim is gagging them, writes Adrian O’Dowd

Why are we talking about lobbying legislation?

Because 122 organisations, including health charities, have expressed concerns that it is unfairly preventing them from expressing their opinions and therefore reducing their contribution to civil debate. A joint letter sent to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on 29 August says: “The Lobbying Act is a confusing and burdensome piece of legislation that weakens our democracy.”1 Signatories also include the Motor Neurone Disease Association, National AIDS Trust, and National Autistic Society.

What is the lobbying act?

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 20142 restricts what organisations that are not political parties can say and how much they can spend on campaigning in the year running up to a general election.

How does it affect charities and trade unions?

The act regulates campaigning activity—including by charities and trade unions—during election periods, if it can be regarded as intended to influence voting behaviour. As well as campaigns for or against particular …

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