Describe pressure groups influence on Parliament before or during the legislative process
Pressure groups are an organised group that exists for the purpose of representing particular interests. Different types can be defined as sectional, who exist to further the interests of a particular body of people (Law Society- solicitors) or cause, who further a particular ideal (RSPCA - animal rights).
There are a great variety of groups from local, such as Save Brighton, seeking more protection for Brighton Marina, to the Confederation of British Industry with a membership of over 200,000. Clearly, the membership, aims, methods, resources and effectiveness range greatly but they all have a common purpose which is to ultimately influence the legislative process to benefit or better reflect their ideas or needs.
Pressure groups work by raising public awareness to gain popular support, through petitions, early day motions and media coverage. These campaigns put pressure on law makers at all stages and successful public campaigns have lead to changes in the law. For example, the successful Snowdrop campaign, supported by the Daily Mail after the Dunblane massacre lead to stricter gun control under the Firearm Act 1997. Also, the campaign by Jamie Oliver, the National Union of Teachers and British Medical Association which lead to The Education (Nutritional Standards for School Dinners) Regulations 2006.
Liberty is a human rights pressure group. It does not have huge mass membership but is supported by many lawyers so can provide expertise and therefore can be influential. Liberty provides briefings on Bills, responds to government consultations and gives expert evidence to committees on issues which have implications for human rights and civil liberties. Recently Liberty have been invited to contribute to the Inquiry into Counter Terrorism Legislation.
The Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 proposed to raise the time suspects were allowed to be held without charge from 28 days to 42 rejected and Liberty lead the
charge or release campaign against the measures. The campaign put together academic evidence, an advertising campaign, commissioned a YouGov poll and held a rally outside Parliament. The campaign was deemed a success and arguably this came from their multi faceted approach.
Pressure groups can also campaign directly for draft legislation such as the National Autistic Society's
I exist campaign, for better understanding and provision for those with Autism. This lead to Cheryl Gillian MP introducing the Austism Act 2009, as a Private Memberís Bill through the ballot system.