Tories put Lobbying Bill on hold over fears of embarrassing defeat in House of Lords

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Climbdown viewed as ‘humiliating’ after MPs claimed vested interests were being let off the hook

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The Government has put the most controversial part of its Lobbying Bill on hold as it struggles to secure the measure’s passage through Parliament.

In an unusual move, ministers shelved for five weeks a debate on its plans to restrict campaigning by charities so they can rethink them. The retreat was seen as an attempt to head off an embarrassing defeat in the House of Lords tonight, where peers were threatening to delay the Bill for three months.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire, the Cabinet Office spokesman in the House of Lords, said discussion of the new charity laws would be put back until the week starting December 16.

He told peers the Government was “open minded about changing a number of aspects” of the legislation. After talks with ministers, Lord Ramsbotham, a crossbench peer, agreed not to put his call for a three-month pause to a vote.

Lord Wallace said debate on other parts of the Bill would continue in the Lords, and the Government still planned to finish its committee stage by Christmas. During the “pause” he and other ministers would “consult widely all of the interested parties, members of this House and the many others outside”. He said they would draw on the work of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, chaired by the former Bishop of Oxford Lord Harries of Pentregarth, which warned that the measure risked “profoundly undermining the very fabric of our democracy”.

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