October 2017: The inside track

What you need to know about the Lobbying Act, changes to Charity Commission guidance, the EU (withdrawal) bill and more.

Government and policy

A summary of the key policy announcements from the last quarter. For more regular policy updates, our head of policy and public services, Elizabeth Chamberlain, writes a monthly round-up blog.

The Lobbying Act

The Cabinet Office has announced that it will not enact changes proposed by Lord Hodgson’s government commissioned review of part 2 of the Lobbying Act, despite sector concern that the Act has led to confusion about what campaigning can take place during elections. The minister for civil society, Tracey Crouch, has since written to NCVO, and others, promising to work with charities so that they can continue to campaign with confidence.

NCVO had previously written to the government urging them to reform the Lobbying Act in line with Lord Hodgson’s recommendations.

Changes to Charity Commission guidance

The Charity Commission has released new guidance on serious incidence reporting, which gives greater clarity about what the Commission consider a serious incident, and a new checklist for trustees. Serous incidence reporting is voluntary, but charities are expected to comply with the guidance.

The Commission also released new guidance on grant funding for non-charitable organisations has been revised following public consultation, with the key change being that charities can fund core costs of non-charitable organisations, if it furthers their purpose.

The Commission is currently consulting on changes to the 2018 Annual Return , with proposals including questions on staff remuneration and overseas funding. The consultation is open until 24 November.

Autumn budget

NCVO has written to the chancellor, ahead of the autumn budget in November, with proposals to increase the long term sustainability of charities, including a commitment to creating a European Social Fund successor after Brexit, and the release of dormant assets to encourage local philanthropy.

As the Office for Budget Responsibility have downgraded their assessment of UK productivity, it is unlikely the chancellor will announce wide-ranging changes to public spending in the budget.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The government has set out plans to introduce legislation in line with new European data protection rules, GDPR. Many charities will need to make changes to privacy and data policies, as the more stringent regulation will cover all personal data held about service users and beneficiaries, members, donors and supporters, employees and volunteers. Special exemption has been included for the DBS system, and research will continue to be exempt as under current data protection legislation.

NCVO is providing a number of resources to help charities make the transition and last week ran a free webinar, What does GDPR mean for your charity? , which is now available to watch back.

CIO conversion

Legislation allowing charities and community interest companies to quickly convert to charitable incorporated organisations has been put before parliament by the Department for Culture Media and Sport. The changes for a recent consultation, and will allow charities and CICs with company structures to quickly convert to CIOs from January. Converting to a CIO will allow relevant organisations to limit the liability of trustees, and reduce annual reporting and accounts to just the Charity Commission, not also Companies House.

Parliament

Committee allocation

Parliament has approved a motion which will ensure a government majority on bill committees and delegated legislation committees, meaning legislation is unlikely to be subject to major changes at committee stage. Some have argued that the election result should have meant that the government would lose this majority, which would have had a major impact on its ability to get legislation through unamended.

EU (withdrawal) bill

The EU (withdrawal) bill has passed its second reading in the House of Commons and will next be subject to a committee of the whole house. The bill was criticised as giving too much power to the executive without proper scrutiny by a number of Conservative backbenchers, as well as opposition parties, and a number of amendments have been tabled. The bill is currently awaiting a date for committee stage, with the large number of amendments meaning the government is reportedly having to negotiate with potential rebels to ensure it passes with minimal amendment.

NCVO is part of the Repeal Bill Alliance, which is looking to ensure the bill provides for open and accountable lawmaking and retain high standards.

Data protection bill

The data protection bill, which will transfer GDPR into UK law, has received its second reading in the House of Lords. Several peers raised concerns about the text of GDPR not forming part of the legislation – with the regulation to be introduced separately through secondary legislation.

People news

Select committees

Select committees have now been set up and have started their work. Unlike bill committees, select committees do not have government majorities.

Leadership elections

The new UKIP leader is Henry Bolton, previously the party’s candidate for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner in 2016.

Other appointments

  • Oliver Robbins has left his role as permanent secretary of DExEU to become the Prime Minister’s EU adviser. His replacement at DExEU is Philip Rycroft.
  • Romilly Dennys and Charlotte Griffiths have been appointed as special advisers to culture secretary Karen Bradley.
  • Former MP Stewart Jackson has been appointed as chief of staff to David Davis at DExEU.

Dates for your diary

13–17 Nov UK Parliament Week
14 Nov NCVO Trustee Conference
22 Nov Budget Statement

Where do the parties stand after conference season?

Theresa May might have experienced the speech of her nightmares, particularly when contrasted with the celebratory mood at Labour conference, but as ever the impact with the public seems to have been overstated, and in polling terms at least the situation seems relatively stable. It is possible however, that events in Manchester have shortened Mrs May’s premiership – and the expected reshuffle in the next few weeks could provide the prime minister with yet more disgruntled backbenchers.

Whatever happens however, the Conservatives could well be in power until 2022 unless a new leader sees advantage in a quicker election (and after this year’s experience that would require a degree of bravery). The parliamentary arithmetic combined with the requirements of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act suggests we will have a government that lasts the distance, even as it struggles to get its business through.

Labour clearly have more of a spring in their step, and as the likelihood of another election recedes, they will now have to get back to the business of opposition. There are opportunities for charities to work with Labour to influence what happens in parliament, but also to develop a long-term policy agenda.

The early days of this parliament show that there are opportunities to build cross-party coalitions on specific issues, but for those of us working on broad sectoral issues there is also a need to start doing long-term work so that parties have a clear idea of the role of charities in delivering their priorities.

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.

If you want to improve the way you work with select committees, our Influencing select committees course is on 10 November. And if you need a general brush up on how to use various parliamentary processes, our next Influencing parliament course will take place on 12 March.

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