Tessa Munt MP challenged over fairness of new law
WELLS MP Tessa Munt has denied that a bill she supported in Parliament will stop charities from campaigning.
Dubbed the "gagging law" the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill has been criticised by campaign groups who say that it will limit the amount of work they can do.
However, Ms Munt, who voted for the bill at its first reading in the House of Commons, says that it will take the big money out of politics.
The bill proposes capping the amount campaign groups can spend supporting or criticising a particular candidate during elections.
At a public meeting organised by 38 Degrees, a campaign group with more than a million members, around a hundred people came to question Ms Munt about the bill.
Becky Jarvis, campaign manager from 38 Degrees, said: "It's ordinary people that will be affected – not the Lord Ashcrofts of this world.
"This bill will have a chilling impact on how community groups are heard at elections."
Ms Munt said that the bill was aimed at making it clearer who was financially influencing elections, not stopping campaigning.
She said: "This bill increases the transparency of third party groups. It's not about what groups say but that they are open."
There was then a question and answer session with the members of the public. Several people said that they thought the bill restricted ordinary people but not wealthy individuals.
Ms Munt said that she had received assurances from the relevant government department that this was not the case.
The information she had received also seemed to contradict the legal advice given to the Women's Institute. Nicky Venning, representing the WI, said that they had received legal advice that their campaigning would be curtailed. Ms Munt, a WI member herself, said that she had been specifically told that the group would not be affected.
Others said that if the legislation came into force they would lose the chance to be heard by politicians as a collective voice carried more weight than lots of individuals.
She said: "I will go and get further advice. I have written down all the questions from this evening and will find out more. There are things that have been said tonight that I thought not true but I will get clarification and put something on my website when I learn more."