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The inside track: March 2022

Our latest update on what’s happening in Westminster that might impact charities. This month we consider a new preferred candidate to chair the Charity Commission, royal assent for two crucial bills for charities, and more legislative back and forth as we move towards the end of the parliamentary session.

Parliament

Charity Commission chair

After Martin Thomas withdrew as Charity Commission chair, the government has now announced its new preferred candidate, Orlando Fraser.

Mr Fraser was previously on the board of the Charity Commission between 2013 and 2017, has been involved with a number of charities, and is a former member of NCVO’s advisory council.

In a joint statement with ACEVO, NCVO argued that the Charity Commission should have re-run the process to give more confidence in the decision. We also think the pre-appointment hearing should press Fraser on questions of political independence, given he was previously a parliamentary candidate for the Conservative party.

Charities bill

The charities bill is largely uncontroversial, so swiftly made progress through the House of Commons, and has now received royal assent.

The Charity Commission has published a blog outlining the next steps, and plans for implementing the bill will be published shortly.

Dormant assets bill

The dormant assets bill has also received royal assent, and a public consultation on how to allocate funding from dormant assets will take place in the summer.

The bill was amended to include an explicit commitment to consider a Community Wealth Fund as part of the consultation, alongside existing funding areas, youth and social investment.

As part of the Community Wealth Fund Alliance, we’ll be advocating for that proposal in the consultation. Find out more about the campaign and sign up to the alliance.

Police, crime, sentencing and courts bill

The police, crime, sentencing and courts bill is reaching its final stages after the House of Commons rejected the remaining amendments that were made in the House of Lords. The Lords will now decide whether to push further on those amendments, but continued pressure on the government is likely to focus on powers to crack down on ‘noisy protests’ after several Conservative MPs voiced concerns over the measures.

People news

Changes in Government

Focus on the situation in Ukraine has taken some of the immediate pressure off Boris Johnson’s leadership. However, there remains speculation about what will happen depending on the findings of the police investigation into Downing Street parties and Sue Gray’s full report.

As part of Boris Johnson’s attempt to move on, several advisers, including chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, left government, and Jacob Rees-Mogg was given the new role of minister for Brexit opportunities.

New shadow minister for civil society

The Labour party has appointed Barbara Keeley as shadow minister for civil society, three months after the former shadow minister Rachael Maskell resigned. Before becoming an MP in 2005, Keeley advised on community regeneration projects across Greater Manchester, and worked as a consultant for the Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

By-elections

Two new MPs have been elected following by-elections. Anna Firth is the new Conservative MP for Southend West. She won 86% of the vote after the other main parties stood aside out of respect for MP Sir David Amess, whose murder initiated the by-election.

Labour candidate Paulette Hamilton retained Birmingham Erdington for the party, which was held following the death of respected frontbencher Jack Dromey.

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