Five minutes in parliament – July 2014

Debate on the role of the voluntary sector

Baroness Scott hosted a debate on the role of the voluntary sector, which saw twenty peers from across the House of Lords participate in a highly informed and wide-ranging discussion.

The full debate is well worth a read, but here are a few of the specific topics discussed:

  • Community foundations were praised by many peers, who spoke of the importance of this sustainable and local source of funding. Baroness Scott called for the current match-funding scheme to be expanded past 2015.
  • There was concern that, whilst volunteering and income from individuals has increased, the ‘civic core’ of our society is ageing and reducing, following the findings of the Growing Giving Parliamentary Inquiry.
  • The existing government commissioning process was criticised for squeezing out voluntary sector organisations and for the focus on cost rather than value. Peers supported calls for a review of public sector markets and for voluntary organisations earlier in policy design.
  • The positive societal changes brought about by charity campaigns were discussed by a number of peers, although there continued to be concerns about politically partisan campaigns.

The Government response from Lord Wallace noted that this policy area is a particular specialism of the Lords, rather than the Commons, and suggested that they hold regular debates on the subject.

Impact of the Lobbying Act

Danny Finkelstein, a Conservative member of the Lords and a Times editor, has ask that charities get in touch with him to report if they are choosing not to campaign or altering their activity because of the Lobbying Act. He has asked for real examples, not hypotheticals.

We expect that the majority of voluntary organisations will be below the thresholds and so not be captured by the Act; however, there is a real concern that there will be a chilling effect with organisations self-censoring  their campaigning activity. The Harries Commission will be consulting more extensively on the impact of the Act and the potential for amending or replacing it, but this is a good opportunity in the meantime.

The Condition of Britain

Ed Miliband last week announced a new policy on welfare and training for young people. It was designed to appeal to the ‘forgotten 50%’, young people who do not go to university.

The speech formed part of the launch of the Condition of Britain report by thinktank IPPR.  Char Ravenscroft’s  5-minute policy manager blog has the details.

What was meant to be a key part of Labour’s positioning did not go well, receiving limited media coverage. The broken live broadcast, the fact it was much the same policy as was announced by David Cameron at last year’s Conservative Party conference, and the Labour press team’s mistweet (see below) all conspired against the Miliband team. However, Peter Oborne writing for the Telegraph suggested there is a mob mentality in the media against Miliband.

The Queen’s Speech

June began with the Queen’s Speech, setting out the legislative programme for parliament between now and the General Election.  You can read Elizabeth’s blog on the key points for the voluntary sector, including the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill and the Draft Protection of Charities Bill.

Accusations of a thin legislative programme continued. There is little parliamentary time before the election as it is, but parliament is still likely to prorogue early for the summer recess.

Recommended reading

  1. The received wisdom is David Cameron dislikes reshuffles and wanted a cultural change from the previous administration. This analysis from the Institute for Government shows that, contrary to popular belief, Blair’s first term was just as stable as Cameron’s has been.
  1. This Scottish referendum guide for charities from Carnegie UK Trust and ACOSVO came out earlier in the year, but we’re seeing queries from our members increase now we’re into the last 100 days of the campaign.

And finally…

Just in case you missed it, the Labour press team appeared to announce a new policy that everyone should have their own owl. Photoshop was made for moments like these.

A hack or a mistake, it rather overshadowed Labour’s big speech on youth unemployment earlier that day. Analysis by Labour Uncut found that there was more than double the number of media tweets about owls compared to Miliband’s speech. Serious lesson: be careful with security for your organisational twitter account and beware of clicking on suspect links.

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Charlotte was our senior external relations officer and public affairs consultant. She has left NCVO

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