July 2017: The inside track

What you need to know about the new government, what election results mean for the new parliament, and what opportunities these might present for charities.

Government and policy

New government

Following the election Theresa May has formed a minority Conservative government. An agreement has been reached with the DUP to vote for confidence motions, Queen’s speeches, Budgets (and finance and money bills), and Brexit legislation in return for additional financial support to Northern Ireland. For more on how you can influence the new government, listen to our new podcast.

NCVO manifesto

In the run-up to the election, NCVO published its own manifesto, with five key ideas for the new government to support charities to make an even bigger difference. We will look to take these ideas forward with the new government and in parliament.

Brexit

As part of the Queen’s speech, the government announced eight Brexit-related bills. As well as the long-anticipated ‘great repeal’ bill (which will be formally known as the European Union (withdrawal) bill), there will be legislation to set out post-Brexit arrangements on immigration, agriculture, fisheries, customs, trade, nuclear safeguards, and international sanctions.

The European Union (withdrawal) bill itself, which will convert EU law into UK law was published last week. The bill contains new powers that will enable the government to make changes to legislation ahead of Brexit through secondary legislation. NCVO is working alongside a number of other organisations to ensure these powers can only be used to make technical changes and not to make substantive changes to policy.

Lobbying Act

After concerns were raised about the impact of the Lobbying Act during the election, NCVO signed a joint letter with Bond, ACEVO, the Charities Aid Foundation, NAVCA and the Small Charities Coalition, urging the government to make reform of the Lobbying Act, by adopting the recommendations of the Hodgson review, a priority within this parliament.

Despite the confusion and uncertainty caused by this legislation, charities were able to campaign during the election period. We set out some practical advice and some case studies to support charities looking to campaign during elections.

Charities and the election

The Charity Commission has published its round-up of issues arising in charities during the general election. It is interesting reading for anyone in a campaigning or management role at a charity who is interested in how the Commission approaches charities’ neutrality during elections.

Fundraising Preference Service

The Fundraising Regulator has launched the Fundraising Preference Service, which allows members of the public to stop fundraising communications from specific charities. The creation of the service was recommended by the cross-party review of fundraising regulation in 2015.

Good Governance Code

A new Charity Governance Code has been published. The code updates the previous Good Governance Code and among its key recommendations are external reviews for larger charities every three years, more openness and limits on how long trustees may serve.

Parliament

Queen’s speech

As well as the bills to implement Brexit, other legislation likely to be of interest to charities includes a data protection bill, which will implement the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

After the Conservatives lost their majority, a number of manifesto commitments were also dropped from, or watered down, in the speech. These included the means testing of winter fuel allowance which was not mentioned at all, and the government’s plans for social care which will be the subject of a green paper and consultation.

Lords committee on citizenship and civic engagement

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts will chair a new committee looking at the role of citizenship: what rights and responsibilities citizenship should entail. The committee will also look at the role of volunteering within citizenship.

People news

New minister for civil society

Tracey Crouch has been announced as the new minister for sport and civil society, after ministerial responsibilities within DCMS (which has been renamed the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport). She served as the minister for sport, heritage and tourism from 2015, and as well as being the patron of a number of charities, volunteers as a football coach.

Government reshuffle

A limited cabinet level reshuffle has taken place. The most significant appointment is that key Theresa May ally Damian Green has been moved from the Department for Work and Pensions to become cabinet office minister and first secretary of state (making him effectively deputy to the prime minister).

Former chief secretary to the treasury, David Gauke, has taken over as work and pensions secretary.

Labour reshuffle

After the election produced a better than expected result for Labour, Jeremy Corbyn has largely kept faith with his frontbench team despite some in his party calling for the return of former frontbenchers, choosing only to appoint where there have been vacancies. Key appointments include election campaign co-ordinator Andrew Gwynne as shadow communities and local government secretary.

Steve Reed will stay in post as shadow minister for civil society.

Select committees

New select committee chairs have been elected.

  • Damian Collins was re-elected unopposed as chair of the digital, culture, media and sport committee.
  • Hilary Benn has also been re-elected unopposed as chair of the exiting the EU committee.

Leadership elections

  • Sir Vince Cable has taken over from Tim Farron as Liberal Democrat leader. The Twickenham MP was the only candidate to replace the previous leader, who formally stood down at the start of parliamentary recess.
  • Paul Nuttall resigned as leader of UKIP immediately after the election, and a number of candidates have put themselves forward, but former leader Nigel Farage has ruled himself out.

Other appointments

  • Mark Fisher has stepped down as director of the office for civil society to support the independent public inquiry on Grenfell Tower. He has been replaced by David Rossington.
  • Gavin Barwell has been appointed as chief of staff to Theresa May after the resignations of Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. He was formerly housing minister, but lost his seat at the recent election.
  • Sir Mark Lowcock has stood down as permanent secretary at the department for international department to take on a role at the UN. Nick Dyer is currently serving as interim permanent secretary.

Dates for your diary

7 Sept NCVO Campaigning Conference
16-19 Sept Liberal Democrat Conference
24-27 Sept Labour Conference
1-4 Oct Conservative Conference

What does the election mean for charities?

The close election result and the loss of the Conservative government’s majority could provide significant opportunities for charities that want to influence legislation and the policy agenda of the government. All legislation is going to require negotiation to get through even where the DUP have committed to support it, so charities who can influence Conservative backbenchers in particular may be able to secure significant changes.

However the precarious nature of the government may cause some challenges for charities too. Given the potential for lost votes to cause difficulty for the government and potentially another election, Conservative MPs may be hard to persuade that they should oppose the government – and governments that struggle to get their business through tend to avoid putting forward legislation that could be lost, so it may be harder to get your suggestions on the agenda.

Finally, if you do manage to get the government to push for what you want, remember that your opponents can take advantage of that insecurity too, so the one thing that charities will need to do is remain vigilant when it comes to parliament.

NCVO can help you to navigate Westminster and Whitehall

Make sure 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 our certificate in campaigning, starting in October, which has become the essential course for campaigners in the UK, helping individuals to deliver change and organisations to achieve their goals.

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.

We have also released the second episode of our new podcast, which this month focuses on influencing the new government.

And let us know if you’re heading to party conferences. It would be great to catch up over a coffee. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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