Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

This is participatory democracy in action

with 5 comments

Fantastic news!  Despite all their attempts to obfuscate, the Conservative Party’s attempt to curtail democracy in the UK has been defeated.  This is how 38 Degrees reported the news to me by email.

——

Dear Martin,

Great news. Last night the government was 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
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

P.S. 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: http://www.parliament.uk/Templates/LordsDivisions/Pages/LordsDivisions.aspx?id=51023&epslanguage=en&date=2014-Jan-15&itemId=1&session=2013-May-08

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.

NOTES:
[1] The Guardian: Peers vote to exclude some staff costs from charity spending limits: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jan/15/peers-vote-exclude-staff-charity-spending
[2] The petition: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/fix-the-gagging-law#petition
[3] Hansard transcript of the debate: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2013-2014/0050/amend/ml50-R-II-rev.htm
[4] Gagging law public meetings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlGKzTuDp60
[5] Lord Harries’ amendments in full: http://civilsocietycommission.info/lord-harries-of-pentregarths-amendments/


38 Degrees is funded entirely by donations from thousands of members across the UK. Making a regular donation will mean 38 Degrees can stay independent and plan for future campaigns. Please will you chip in a few pounds a week? https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/start-a-direct-debit

38 DEGREES Registered Company No. 6642193

———

As I have now said to my (evangelical Christian) Conservative MP (who was not persuaded by prior argument):

” I am glad that sanity has prevailed… and that it was a retired Anglican bishop who helped it do so.”

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Written by Martin Lack

16 January 2014 at 19:26

5 Responses

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  1. Are NGO’s self-appointed moral guardians with no subjective interests at heart, or have they been elected? Quis custodes – I apologise for the bad latin – comes to mind here.

    duncan

    16 January 2014 at 20:57

    • Thanks for stirring the pot, Duncan. However, I think this is a freedom of speech issue.

      Martin Lack

      16 January 2014 at 21:26

    • @Duncan I believe that the phrase you seek may be ‘quis custodiet ipsos custodes’ (which roughly translates as ‘who will guard the guardians?’)

      @Martin While I agree that this is good news, I think you know I believe our implementation of democracy to be badly broken. This is an example of tinkering around the edges; while it’s good that the fruitandnutcases who want to restrict our liberties further have been foiled in this instance (though I do note the ‘there’s a chance that the government may try to undo our hard work by calling a fresh vote in the House of Commons’ caveat, and recall that this government, when it came into power, promised ‘no third London airport runway’ and they’re in the process of reneging on that).

      Keeping us active protecting what little we’ve got prevents us working towards fixing the flaws in the system. More deckchair rearrangements, is all I see.

      pendantry

      19 January 2014 at 15:51


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