Five minutes in parliament – October 2014

After a long break for the summer and party conferences, Parliament has returned in full force, that is, until the next parliamentary recess on 11 November. Here’s my five-minute update on recent developments from Westminster affecting the voluntary sector.

Party conferences

There were hints as to where Labour’s voluntary sector policy might go on issues ranging from campaigning to procurement. From the Conservatives, there was a promise to vastly expand National Citizen Service. The big announcement from the Liberal Democrats was on mental health service waiting times, a significant campaign win for mental health charities such as Mind.

If you missed our updates from this year’s party conferences, take a look at our summaries from the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat party conferences.

Social Value Act review

The Cabinet Office announced a review of the Social Value Act, led by Lord Young, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Enterprise.

NCVO research found that implementation of the Social Value Act has been patchy. Our manifesto calls for the creation of a Centre for Social Value that would help councils share best practice and assess value for money more rigorously; and help voluntary organisations measure and provide evidence of the added social value they bring to public service delivery.

You can let the Cabinet Office know your views and experiences of the Act with their online survey, open until 28 November.

Draft Protection of Charities Bill

The government introduced a draft bill to increase the powers of the Charity Commission, along with additional funding.

The bill will close the current loophole that prevented the Commission from taking enforcement action where a trustee has resigned to avoid removal and disqualification. Other new powers include directing a charity to shut down as a result of misconduct or mismanagement and banning people with certain criminal convictions from being charity trustees.

The bill has only been published in draft form, allowing for a period of public consultation which will be led by Lord Hope of Craighead.

As we put it during the consultation, with power comes responsibility. Earlier this week we announced that we would be doing some work to review the pros and cons of changes to the Charity Commission’s governance structure since the Charities Act 2006, which some have argued has altered its relationship with the government

Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill

The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill completed its stages in the House of Commons. Amendments to remove a clause on responsibility – prompted but concerns it would disrupt the balance between employers and employees in personal injury cases – were defeated

The bill has moved into the Lords and the Second Reading takes place on 4 November. The House of Lords Library has produced this helpful note on the progress of the bill so far.

For more information Justin Davis Smith’s blog looks at the purpose of the billwhile Aidan Warner looks at whether legislation should be used as a PR stunt.

Civil Society APPG

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Civil Society looked at the challenges and opportunities presented by an ageing society.

Discussion ranged from better community engagement in care homes to the growth in ‘golden’ gap years. If you missed it, take a look at this summary of discussion.

The next Civil Society APPG session takes place on 18 November at 4pm. The Charity Commission’s chief executive Paula Sussex will join us to give an update on the work of the Commission. If you would like to attend, please email

Further reading

  1. Ipsos Mori’s Periils of Perceptions report is back for another year and it is a thing of beauty. The research looks at common public misperceptions on social policy issues. You can take their online quiz to test yourself
  2. We’ve produced a guide to campaigning in your local area. If you want to know how to get the attention of your local candidates or organise a hustings without falling foul of the Lobbying Act, we’ve got tips to help you.

And finally…

This month it was just too difficult to choose between General Boles’ magnum opus, #dannyswalk and the annual Westminster Dog of the Year competition won by Diesel, Robert Flello’s German Shephard.

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

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