Big manifesto ideas: get rid of the Lobbying Act & have a new Act for nature
Here we post the final two ideas in the series, both focused on legislation: a proposal for major new Act to protect nature from The Wildlife Trusts, and Friends of the Earth wants to see a repeal of the Lobbying Act to allow the full participation of civil society in democratic debate.
Today’s post takes the total number of proposals up to 22. Together with the 20 that came before they make up a very rich pool of ideas for any party looking for new ways to build a greener Britain, covering business strategy,transport, low carbon innovation, community participation, and better ways to deal with energy and resources and protect nature.
The best ideas nearly always come from outside formal politics and some of these may well find their way into the next party manifestos.
Let us know if you’d back them on twitter (#manifestoidea) or give us your own ideas.
Stephanie Hilborne OBE
Chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts
What’s the big idea ?
A Nature and Well-being Act
The next government should introduce a Nature and Well-being Act, making a clear and comprehensive commitment to achieving nature’s recovery, and tackle society’s growing separation from nature by improving people’s connection with wildlife.
Who benefits ?
Restoring ecosystems and people’s connection to wildlife will benefit the health, well-being and quality of life of the majority of the UK population. Business, jobs and the economy will benefit from a sustainable basis for a vibrant economy. Society and government will benefit from a more productive workforce and a healthier population, putting less pressure on social security and NHS budgets.
What’s the catch?
There is no catch and no-one loses in the long term. Those businesses that are liquidising nature’s assets most quickly may object initially. However, the opportunity is there for many in the private sector to support a more sophisticated, rationalised and yet more ambitious and effective approach to legislation. It would impose (modest) new responsibilities on the public and private sector, so some may object in principle.
What has to change?
- The Act would set out a long term goal for nature’s recovery and put the Natural Capital Committee on a statutory footing to measure progress.
- Local authorities would have a duty to work together to map the ecological networks of the future and ensure that planning decisions, conditions and any ‘biodiversity offsets’ are geared towards this.
- The government and its agencies would be better aligned, and existing payments for land management would be directed towards creating and enhancing these networks.
- Barriers to progress will be removed, such as some aspects of water industry regulation, and any internally conflicting environmental legislation rationalised.
Why should it be in manifestos?
This is vital not just to address ongoing declines in wildlife but to address the parallel declines in the quality of most people’s lives. Most of us are so far removed from nature that we forget we are ultimately dependent on it, we are fed, clothed, sheltered, warmed and protected from extreme weather – high and low temperatures, storms, droughts and floods – by nature.
Our growing, aging population is becoming more sedentary and more obese, our children no longer roam free, our mental health is declining and we are becoming more distant from the natural world. This comes at great (and increasing) cost to society and the economy. This Act would help to create more rich natural places, and help to reconnect people to wildlife. The Act is a vital step towards a healthier and happier country.
Senior campaigner, Political and Legal Unit at Friends of the Earth
What’s the big idea?
Repeal the Lobbying Act
This should be replaced with a law that supports civil society in playing a full part in democratic debate about the most important issues facing the country and the planet.
All of society would benefit because it would mean an informed electorate and scrutiny of those in power. Campaigning organisations have persuaded reluctant governments to cancel poor countries’ debt, remove lead from petrol, prevent the sell-off of our forests and allow Gurkha veterans the right of residence in the UK. Silencing legitimate debate removes a public check on government. Charities and campaign groups have a much larger supporter base than political parties and their role in democracy is as important as the parties.
What’s the catch?
Political parties that want to limit criticism of unpopular policies and practices.
What has to change?
- Repeal the Lobbying Act immediately, reverting to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 in the short term. Introduce new legislation within two years following a proper consultation with stakeholders. This would allow time to look properly at how to ensure politics stays clear of big money, whilst also ensuring civil society has a voice.
- Establish a commission on the future of civil society, to report within two years, following a proper consultation with stakeholders on how best to regulate while fostering public engagement.
Why should it be in the manifestos?
Parties would show their commitment to democracy and a strong civil society. The electorate could be confident parties would make the changes needed in office.
It would be popular: the campaign against the Lobbying Bill has united organisations from the Countryside Alliance to League Against Cruel Sports; Christian Aid, the Quakers and Cafod to the British Humanist Association; and some of the biggest membership organisations in the country, like the Ramblers and the RSPB.