AN Ilfracombe woman who is part of a national campaign group has handed in a 200,000 signature petition to a local MP protesting against the “gagging law”.
The campaign group, 38 Degrees, has been collecting signatures nationally against the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.
Critics of the Bill say it could prevent charities and pressure groups from campaigning on key issues for a year leading up to an election.
However, some believe it would stop corporate businesses from influencing elections in the UK, as it would restrict the amount any organisation – apart from political parties – could spend in the year leading up to polling day.
On Friday evening, Claire Crippin, who works with local charities on behalf of 38 Degrees, handed in the national petition to North Devon MP Nick Harvey at the Ilfracombe Centre.
She said: “If this Bill is passed, it will have a real impact on local and national democracy and will make it hard for charities and smaller campaign groups to lobby MPs on issues that really affect them in the lead up to an election.
“For example, if a local hospital was to close, people would find it hard to campaign against it even though it would obviously effect them.
“This Bill has been slipped into parliament with very little public consultation.
“Many MPs have worked with local charities to help them on their podium, but in the year leading up to an election, they would now struggle to collaborate.”
38 Degrees says in a statement against the “gagging law” on its website that: “The Government’s rushing through a new law which, if it passes, would have a chilling effect on British democracy and our right to speak up on issues that matter to us.”
Claire is hoping that by handing the petition over to MP Nick Harvey, he will be encouraged to back the campaign group, which has worked with more than 100 local and national charities on the petition, and vote for the Government to fix or scrap the Bill when it comes back to the House of Commons in its second phase.