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Freedom of Speech


Freedom of Speech

Post by 38-degrees on 13th January 2014, 13:09

Great news, the petition asking the House of Lords to protect freedom of speech has already got 100,000 signatures. In less than 48 hours an influential Lord and former bishop, Lord Harries, will carry all the names into the House of Lords.

The total number of signatures will be announced just before the key votes. Please can you sign now, and make sure your name is there to be counted too?

This Wednesday's vote could be one of our last chances to fix this controversial gagging law. It’s a law that could drastically reduce what charities and campaign groups can do. The campaign against it is working, and the government have started to backtrack on the severity of the law. But there are still big problems for us to fix.

Lord Harries has now proposed a series of changes that could protect our freedom to campaign on the issues that are important to us all. But we need to persuade other peers to vote for these changes this Wednesday.

Can you sign the petition and help push it to over 150,000 signatures before the big vote?

Thanks for everything you do

Robin, Blanche, David and the 38 Degrees team.

Here’s the email from last week.

Finally we’re getting somewhere. Yesterday the government announced plans to water down key parts of their gagging law. [1] It’s not enough, but it is progress. If we keep the pressure up now, there’s a real chance we can get further big changes.

Lords gather for one of their last debates to vote on the gagging law on Wednesday. Lord Harries – one of the key Lords trying to stop this threat to democracy – is tabling amendments which would help protect freedom of speech. [2] We need to help him win those votes.

A big petition will help Lord Harries win. He will carry it into the debating chamber - and announce the total signatures - right before the debate starts. Our signatures will prove to wavering peers that the public is against this threat to democracy.

The vote is on Wednesday, so please sign now:

Yesterday’s breakthrough shows that it’s worth us keeping on campaigning. People-powered pressure, together with the actions in parliament of some sympathetic Lords, are forcing the government to back down bit by bit. [3]

The risk is that the government will use these partial changes to avoid making bigger improvements. But that's a risk we can see off. If enough of us sign the petition we can prove to the Lords that we still expect them to vote to protect democracy.

Over 50 charities and campaigning groups, including Hope Not Hate, Friends of the Earth, The Countryside Alliance and Oxfam have already signed up in support of this petition. [4]

Please now help it grow further by adding your signature too:

Thanks for everything you’ve done to get this far,

Robin, Blanche, Maddy and the 38 Degrees Team

PS: Here's a bit more detail on the concessions made by the government yesterday. They announced that:

Certain campaign costs, including translation and accessibility for the deaf or blind people, won’t be restricted.
The time period which the gagging law would apply for the 2015 election will be reduced from 12 months to 7.5 months
Some really small campaign groups who don’t spend much money will be exempted.
The government will have to carry out a review of the law after the 2015 election.

But while these are important there are still some much bigger problems:

The amount of time that staff working for charities or campaigning groups will be allowed to spend campaigning will still be severely limited.
There are still big new restrictions on what campaigners can do in a single constituency.
The rules could prevent different charities and campaign groups from working together in coalition, threatening initiatives like Make Poverty History and Stop Climate Chaos.

Make sure your name is on the petition when it's presented to the Lords on Wednesday - add your name now:

[1] BBC News - Lobbying Bill: Ministers offer concessions after criticism from charities
The government amendments
NCVO - Lobbying bill – significant steps forward
[2] NACVA Government makes Lobbying Bill concessions
[3] Most notably the efforts of cross-bencher Lord Harries and the Commission for Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, concerned Lib Dems such as Lord Tyler, and opposition parties including Labour.
[4] The Commission for Civil Society and Democratic Engagement - Petition


Freedom of Speech

Post by robinetal on 19th January 2014, 10:34

Great news. The government has been defeated in a crucial House of Lords vote on the gagging law. [1] A key change which took out one of the worst parts of the bill was voted through. There’s more to do, but this is a huge step forward.

Over 160,000 people signed the last-minute petition to ask Lords to back these important changes. [2] It helped tip the balance and people power worked. The petition was integral in winning the vote and persuading Lords to protect freedom of speech.

Just before the big vote, Lord Harries - who proposed the changes - was handed the massive petition, and he referred to it several times during the debate.

The proposed changes were backed by Lords from across the political spectrum
. Lord Tyler, an influential Lib Dem peer, joined with Baroness Mallalieu (Labour) and Lord Cormack (Conservative), to support the amendment. [3] The government were defeated by 237 votes to 194.

Lord Harries receiving the petition in the House of Lords just before the debate.

Lord Harries said:
“Thank you to everyone who added their name to the petition. It was amazingly powerful that I was able to tell fellow Lords during the debate, that I had with me a petition with the names of over 130 NGOs who had signed up to the petition and a staggering 160,000+ signatures of people who have spoken out about this dangerous law.

This was an impressive achievement which will not have been lost on their lordships. As a result, I am pleased to say that we defeated the Government on some of the worst parts of their proposals.“

The campaign is working and together we’ve got the government on the back foot. But we’re not out of the woods yet. Next week, on the 21st January, the Lords will hold their final vote on changes to the law.

And if we manage to push through further changes, there’s a chance that the government may try to undo our hard work by calling a fresh vote in the House of Commons. So we’ll each need to keep an eye on our MPs.

“Thanks so much to everyone who’s taken action against the gagging law so far. It’s been amazing to see people power in action. We’ve made great strides in protecting democracy, but the fight’s not over yet”
Liz Hutchins - Friends of the Earth

It’s been an amazing campaign so far, with 38 Degrees members up and down the country throwing the kitchen sink at the gagging law. [4] This isn’t the first time that 38 Degrees members have caused a stir on a big vote in Parliament. Together we’ve won votes on protecting our forests, stopping Rupert Murdoch and the privatisation of the NHS.

But this is about more than just political point scoring. Some of our core values are around protecting democracy and fairness. 38 Degrees members have shown again that we will stand up together for what we believe in - and that when we do, it makes a real difference.

Thanks for everything you do,

Robin, David, Belinda and the 38 Degrees team

Here's a little more detail on what happened in the Lords last night:

Lord Harries’ amendment (amendment 45) centred on staff costs for charities and campaign groups. [5]

The government wanted the gagging law to place heavy restrictions on how much campaigning work staff at charities or campaigning groups could do. That could have meant, for example, limits on how many public meetings about the NHS 38 Degrees staff could help organise.

Amendment 45 removed most of these restrictions on staff.

You can see the wording of the amendment, and a full list of who voted for it, here:

There are still other big problems with the gagging law - such as restrictions on campaigning in individual constituencies, and restrictions which hinder charities and campaign groups working together in coalitions. Votes on these issues were postponed until next week - so there'll be more to do to make sure they go the right way.

[1] The Guardian: Peers vote to exclude some staff costs from charity spending limits:
[2] The petition:
[3] Hansard transcript of the debate:
[4] Gagging law public meetings:
[5] Lord Harries’ amendments in full:

Re: Freedom of Speech

Post by 38degrees on 22nd January 2014, 21:16

Here's a quick update on how it went today, with MPs voting again on the gagging law.

I’m afraid it's bad news. Most Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs chose to follow party orders. They reversed the main improvements made in the House of Lords.

This means they voted:
- to remove new rules limiting secret lobbying by big business
- to put back in key limits on what campaigners, charities, and voluntary groups can do to speak up on issues of the day [1]

It’s pretty depressing. But it’s not over. The House of Lords will now get another vote – probably next week. They have the option to refuse to back down, and force MPs to vote yet again.

The votes were quite close. A number of government MPs did rebel - thanks in no small part to all the petitions, leaflets, emails and events which 38 Degrees members like you made happen.

If 17 more Conservative or Lib Dem MPs had voted differently, we would have won. Maybe we can get some more to change their minds next time around?

Details of how each MP voted will be posted on the 38 Degrees website, as soon as they are published (probably tomorrow morning).

All of us will need to think quickly about what we do next to stand up for democracy and freedom of speech. Options could include:
- a fresh push to encourage the Lords to hold firm next week
- naming and shaming MPs who voted to make the gagging law worse again today and pushing them to change their minds
- looking at options for legal challenges to the gagging law’s provisions
- thinking through ways we can keep campaigning and speaking up on the issues that matter despite the gagging law

Today, there's lots to feel fed up about. Yet again we’ve seen MPs push through a law which the public have never voted for, and which has been heavily criticised by everyone from the United Nations to the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Women’s Institute to the Royal British Legion. [2]

But there are reasons to feel hopeful too. This campaign has brought together so many different organisations and so many people from all walks of life. [3] Together we're proving that whilst faith in politicians is at an all time low, passion for real democracy is alive and kicking.

If you have thoughts or suggestions on what we should do together next, or just want to share how you're feeling, you can join the conversation on the 38 Degrees Facebook page, here:

I'll look forward to reading your thoughts.

Hopefully we can all agree on one thing, though. This definitely isn’t the time to give up. The kind of issues that 38 Degrees members choose to campaign on – like protecting the NHS, preserving our countryside, improving democracy and challenging tax dodging – are way too important to leave to politicians.

An alarming number of politicians seem to want us to shut up. But, I’m very glad to say, we’re just not going to!

Thanks for everything you do,

38 Degrees Executive Director

PS: On the subject of MPs wanting to shut us up, here's the story of the MP who called the police when 38 Degrees members visited him to deliver a petition!

And here's an MP saying it's "stupid" to email your MP!

PPS: MPs let us down today, but it isn't quite over yet - so please do share your ideas for what we could do next. Either by replying here or by posting on the 38 Degrees Facebook page:

[1] There were 3 big votes in the Commons today:
- On the vote to require Ministers’ special advisors to record their meetings with lobbyists 311 MPs voted to reject the change, and 258 voted to accept them.
- On the vote to reject Lords’ changes to how much staff costs count towards total spending limits, amendment 108: 310 MPs voted to reject the changes, and 278 MPs to accept them into the Bill
- On the vote to reject Lords’ changes to the scope of what activity counts towards constituency spending limits, amendments 26 and 27: 314 MPs voted to reject the changes, and 274 MPs to accept them

[2] The Guardian: Lobbying bill will tarnish Britain, says UN official:
National Federation of Women’s Institutes: Briefing page on the Lobbying Bill:
Citizens Advice Bureau: Lobbying Bill briefings:
The Royal British Legion: Lobbying Bill: Why asking politicians to back our troops could be stopped under this sloppy law:

[3] Over 130 NGOs, including 38 Degrees, and over 160,000 people signed a petition against the gagging law:

Re: Freedom of Speech

Post by 38.degrees on 28th January 2014, 19:13

Today the full-page ads thousands of 38 Degrees members helped pay for are splashed across The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent and the i. That means they will be seen by over a million people! I thought you’d like to have a look:

As peers mull over today’s papers, the ads will remind them of just how unpopular the gagging law is. Our ads will be fresh in their minds when they cast their votes on the gagging law later on today.

These ads are uniquely powerful: it’s not often that you’ll see such a wide variety of organisations coming together, from the Royal British Legion, to Mumsnet, to Oxfam and over 100 other charities and campaigning groups.

Thank you so much for helping to make this possible,

David, Rebecca, Becky and the 38 Degrees team
David Babbs

Bad news today

Post by David Babbs on 28th January 2014, 22:11

I wanted to let you know straight away. I'm afraid we lost the gagging law vote in the House of Lords this evening. That's it - it's going to become law.

It couldn't have been closer. On the final vote, 245 Lords voted in favour and 245 against. Unfortunately the rules mean that in the case of a tie, the government gets its way.

Personally I feel pretty devastated about this. I'm worried about what it means for the future of 38 Degrees. More importantly, I'm worried about what it means for the future of democracy, and what it tells us about the state of British politics.

But I also feel proud of everything 38 Degrees members did together to fight this. I hope you do too.

There will be a lot of thinking and discussion to be done in the coming days. 38 Degrees members will need to pull together to think about how to fight this terrible law. And we'll need to work out how we can keep standing up for all we believe in - despite the restrictions the government is trying to impose.

But right now, I feel sure of one thing. We won't give up.

    Current date/time is 17th March 2018, 14:42