Five minutes in parliament – August 2014

Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill

The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons just before recess.  The bill is intended to protect volunteers and ‘everyday heroes’ by requiring courts to take into account social action or heroism when considering cases of negligence or breaches of legal duties.

There was a rather bad-tempered debate in the House, with the bill attacked for the limited impact it will have in changing the law. There were also more fundamental questions as to whether litigation for the actions of volunteers is a problem.

Justin Davis-Smith’s blog looks at the purpose of the bill; while Aidan Warner looks at whether legislation should be used as a PR stunt.

When parliament returns, the bill will move into committee stage, with report stage and third reading after the party conferences.

Lobbying Act guidance

The anticipated Electoral Commission guidance for non-party campaigners was published in mid-July.  Elizabeth Chamberlain wrote a summary with the key points from the guidance.

From NCVO’s reading of the guidance, it is our understanding that many charities will not need to register. This helpful flowchart from the Electoral Commission is a good place to start and the Commission is holding free webinars throughout August.

However, because of the ambiguity of the definitions in the Lobbying Act and concerns about the reputational risks it presents, it is NCVO’s recommendation that members document their decision whether to register and gain sign off from trustees.

Civil Society APPG

In one of his last public appearances as minister, Nick Hurd MP joined us at the Civil Society APPG to discuss youth policy and the voluntary sector. He was joined by Matt Hyde, Chief Executive of the Scouts Association, and Jennie Butterworth, from Envision UK.

Discussion ranged from informal education and social action to local authority spending reductions. If you missed it, take a look at this summary of discussion.


This month saw the long-awaited ministerial reshuffle. Tipped as the reshuffle that would see the rise of female ministers, in reality there was only a small increase in the number of women in government.

Our guide with the five things you should know about the reshuffle if you work in the voluntary sector is available to NCVO members.

The big news for the voluntary sector was a new Minister for Civil Society, Brooks Newmark MP, who lost no time in meeting with NCVO. Before she headed off on maternity leave, our Head of Policy Char Ravenscroft put together a briefing on what the new Minister for Civil Society needs to know about the voluntary sector.

The reshuffle was limited to the Conservative ministers, with the Liberal Democrats expected to hold their own reshuffle in the autumn.

Debate on National Citizen Service

Brooks Newmark’s first outing as Minister for Civil Society was a Westminster Hall debate on National Citizen Service.

Westminster Hall debates take place in a different room to the House of Commons chamber – as the name suggests, in a room just off Westminster Hall. They are short debates but have to be attended by the relevant minister.

This debate was called by Barry Sheerman MP, who wants to see NCS expanded beyond the current 100,000 places and to include more citizenship education. MPs from both sides of the House spoke of the success of the scheme in bringing together people from different backgrounds and promoting social action.

Recommended reading

  1. In the fine tradition of parliamentary summer reading lists, we’ve produced our own for the voluntary sector. Take a look for NCVO’s suggestions of what to read this summer.
  2. How well do you know your local area? The gap between perception and reality is always interesting with demographic information, but the ONS has made this quiz for a hyper-local view of the census data.
  3. With just nine months to go before the election, the result is very uncertain. Amid the confusion, there are set pieces in the parliamentary calendar which will shape the election campaign. NCVO has produced a simple guide that takes you through them month-by-month. It’s free to members.

And finally…

Duncan Hames became the first MP to carry a baby through the House of Commons division lobby. Duncan Hames resigned from his role as Nick Clegg’s PPS when baby Andrew was born. Jo Swinson MP, his wife, is back in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills after her maternity leave and tipped for promotion in the forthcoming Liberal Democrat reshuffle.

NCVO public affairs network

If you’re interested in what’s going on in parliament and want to hear from like-minded others, we have a network for public affairs professionals in the voluntary sector.

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

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