Sep 3 2013
Controversial lobbying reforms survived their first Commons test tonight as a potential rebellion by Tory backbenchers amounted to only a handful of MPs.
There had been widespread criticism of the Government's proposed changes to lobbying rules, which charities have warned could prevent them from voicing concerns about Government policy.
Under the proposed changes in the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, any organisation - apart from political parties - would be prevented from spending more than £390,000 on campaigns which could be deemed political in the 12 months leading up to a general election.
The current limit is £988,000 and both Labour and Tory MPs criticised the Government's plans, which they said amounted to an attack on freedom of speech.
After last week's defeat for the Government on military action in Syria, there had been fears there could be more pain for Tory chief whip Sir George Young in a vote on a programme motion setting out plans to debate the Bill in committee stage in the House of Commons over three days next week.
Without the approval of MPs, the debate could be allowed to run and run and would make it increasingly unlikely the Bill could make it safely through parliament.
After the lobbying Bill received a second reading by 309 votes to 247, Government majority 62, the programme motion was passed by 300 votes to 249, Government majority 51. The reduced majority might have been even lower were it not for last week's defeat on military action in Syria.
In the last vote, the rebelling Tory MPs were Andrew Bridgen, Douglas Carswell, Philip Davies, David Davis, Zac Goldsmith, David Nuttall and Chris White.
Of the seven who voted against the Government's programme motion, only two - Mr Bridgen and Mr White - supported the Bill at second reading. The remaining five voted against the Bill at second reading.
Only two Liberal Democrats voted against the programme motion. They were Andrew George and Stephen Williams. Neither Mr George nor Mr Williams voted against the Bill at second reading.