Rules may gag charities, claims Sunderland and Washington MP

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CHARITIES and campaign groups could have their voices gagged, fears a Wearside MP.

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, has warned that organisations could be affected under new plans being debated by the Government this week.

The Coalition’s Lobbying Bill, which was supposed to tackle the problem of shady links between politics and private interests, will restrict charities such as the Royal British Legion and Oxfam, from campaigning for pledges of support from Parliamentary hopefuls during election years by imposing new spending limits and accounting requirements.

Mrs Hodgson has argued that this could make it much more difficult for charities and local organisations to hold the Tories and Lib Dems to account for their record in Government, to campaign against policies and to highlight how they have a damaging effect on people in Sunderland.

A group of almost 50 major charities have now written to ministers to highlight the problems with the new rules, and are considering legal action if the Government insists on pushing them through.

Mrs Hodgson said: “It is simply wrong for the Government to try and muzzle the charities and campaign groups which co-ordinate these campaigns, who are in many cases trying to make lives better for my constituents, when the real reason we needed a Lobbying Bill in the first place was to clean up the link between private interests and politicians.”