April 2017: The inside track

What you need to know about Brexit negotiations, charity commission charging, the House of Lords charities select committee report, and more in this quarter’s update.

Government

Brexit

The government has now triggered Article 50, initiating negotiations with the EU and the remaining 27 countries on the terms of the exit. The EU has responded with their own negotiating priorities. We have taken a look at what this means for charities.

The government has also published a white paper setting out the approach it will take to the great repeal bill, set to be introduced this summer after the Queen’s speech. The bill will look to convert existing EU law to UK law to provide certainty when we leave the EU, but will also contain delegated powers (subject to more limited parliamentary scrutiny than bills) to ‘fix’ legislation that won’t work properly once we have left the EU, for example where the law refers to EU institutions and arrangements we will no longer be subject to.

The white paper indicated these powers will be time-limited, but charities will need to be vigilant about the impact of their use, and hold government to account if they attempt to use these powers to make substantive policy changes.

Charity Commission charging

A consultation is to be launched shortly on Charity Commission proposals to charge charities for regulation. After the House of Lords select committee on charities said they had ‘grave concerns’ about the plans, NCVO has set five tests that any proposal for charging should meet.

Budget

The last spring budget was relatively quiet for charities, but the chancellor did set out his approach to public spending. Major announcements of interest to the charity sector include £2bn additional funding for social care over three years, less than recommended by the cross-party communities and local government committee.

Review of full-time social action

The government has announced a review of full-time social action (practical action in the service of others to create positive change), which will be chaired by Steve Holliday, the former CEO of National Grid. The review will be looking at how to increase participation in full-time social action, and is expected to report in October 2017.

Devolution

As devolution deals continue to be agreed and developed, NCVO has published a report finding limited voluntary sector involvement in deals agreed so far. The report makes a number of recommendations for charities, government and local authorities on how devolution can ensure voluntary sector expertise is used in assessing how public services can be most effectively delivered.

New pound coin

The Royal Mint has issued a new pound coin, designed to reduce counterfeiting. We are working with the Royal Mint and others to highlight potential fundraising opportunities around old pound coins using the hashtag #PoundforPound.

Social value act

Minister for civil society Rob Wilson has announced that there will be a review of the Social Value Act. Details are currently limited, but the review is expected to take place later this year.

Parliament

Lords committee on charities

The House of Lords select committee on charities recently published their wide-ranging report into the sector, making 42 recommendations on areas including governance, regulation, commissioning and impact. NCVO has responded, and also looked at the key areas in more detail. We will be convening sector bodies to examine how we can take the steps identified for charities.

National Citizen Service bill

The bill, which enshrines the National Citizen Service as a statutory body through a royal charter, has now passed all of its parliamentary stages. The bill’s progress through parliament has been relatively smooth from a legislative point of view, but questions have been raised following the publication of a critical report by the public accounts committee. NCVO has set out what we think needs to happen next.

People news

Select committees

  • Kelly Tolhurst has been replaced on the business, energy and industrial strategy committee by Antoinette Sandbach.
  • New MP Gareth Snell has replaced Roberta Blackman-Woods on the science and technology committee.
  • Christopher Chope has replaced Julian Knight on the communities and local government committee.
  • Former shadow Wales secretary Jo Stevens is now on the justice committee, replacing Marie Rimmer, who has given up her position on being made shadow disabilities minister.

Labour reshuffle

A small Labour reshuffle has taken place after a number of frontbenchers resigned to vote against the EU bill which allowed the Prime Minister to trigger Article 50. Key appointments include Rebecca Long-Bailey as shadow business secretary, taking over from the resigning Clive Lewis, Peter Dowd who has replaced her as shadow chief secretary to the treasury, and Sue Hayman, who has replaced Rachel Maskell as shadow environment secretary.

Parliamentary by-elections

Labour candidate Gareth Snell held the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election, but the party lost Copeland to Trudy Harrison, the Conservative candidate. A by-election will be held on 4 May in Manchester Gorton, following the death of the longstanding Labour MP Gerald Kaufman. The latest hereditary peer by-election saw Lord Colgrain elected by peers to the House of Lords.

UKIP defections

UKIP no longer have any representation in the House of Commons, as Douglas Carswell has left the party and is now sitting as an independent MP. His fellow defector from the Conservatives, Mark Reckless, has joined the Conservative group in the Welsh Assembly.

Other appointments

  • National security advisor Sir Mark Lyall Grant is to retire, and will be replaced by Home Office permanent secretary Mark Sedwill.
  • The new permanent secretary at the Home Office will be Philip Rutnam, who is moving from the Department for Transport.

Dates for your diary

20 Apr

NCVO Annual Conference

4 May

Local elections in England, Scotland and Wales, regional mayoral elections in England

11 May

NCVO National Volunteering Forum

17 May

Expected date for Queen’s speech

1-7 Jun

Volunteers’ Week

7 Sept

NCVO Campaigning Conference

 

How can charities best influence Brexit?

Many charities will have identified the key issues that they think could affect them after Brexit, and now the two years we have to negotiate under Article 50 are counting down, the question for many charities will be how to influence those priorities. As a starting point, individual departments are probably the best place to get detailed answers on your policy questions and to inform the policy decisions made by the government once we leave the EU.

The Department for Exiting the EU are however listening to representations, particular from sector bodies, and it’s worth making contact with them, particularly if the issues of most importance to you are likely to form part of the negotiations.

Finally, with the Queen’s speech coming up, you will need to make sure you have at least one eye on parliament for the next few years. Aside from the great repeal bill, there are likely to be a number of pieces of legislation dealing with substantive issues arising from Brexit, such as immigration, trade and agriculture. It may be that these less heralded parts of the Brexit timetable are where charities most need to have their voices heard to shape the UK post-Brexit.

These bills (between 7 and 15 depending on who you listen to), will be much broader in scope than the great repeal bill, and will bring a number of areas that have been effectively delegated to the EU, back into UK primary legislation – so in some areas, charities may find it easier to influence than before. The other thing to remember is that this legislative focus on Brexit is going to limit the amount of parliamentary time on a range of key issues, so if you get a relevant bill that gives you the opportunity to put forward policy solutions, you may need to make the most of it.

NCVO can help you to navigate Westminster and Whitehall

Get your voice is heard by those making the decisions. We can provide a range of advice, support and training, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for details.

Our upcoming courses include training on:

Our annual campaigning conference takes place on 7 September this year. Book now to join us for the major campaigning event of the year, keeping you up to date with the latest issues and trends affecting charity campaigners.

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