What do charities who run APPGs need to know ahead of the general election?

Woody Faulkner

Woody Faulkner is external relations team assistant at NCVO. He helps to provide the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Civil Society and Volunteering, monitors our media coverage and runs our parliamentary events and receptions.

The snap election may have long-term repercussions for the work of a lot of voluntary organisations, but one area of work that has been immediately affected is the work of All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs).

APPGs are groups for parliamentarians from all parties, and both houses, to come together on an issue of common interest, be that relating to a country, like the APPG on Jamaica, playing a sport, like the APPG on Hockey, or a subject, like the APPG on Charities and Volunteering.

Many charities provide secretariat support to APPGs, arranging the work of the group in the interest of their common purpose. Here are some things that organisations providing the secretariat for an APPG need to consider with the upcoming election.

No more APPGs (for now)

When parliament dissolves today there will be no more MPs, just candidates, and the 626 APPGs cease to have any status. You should update any website you host for an APPG to reflect this, and then refrain from updating the page again until after the election.

Any planned meetings or work of the group will have to be postponed until after the group is reconstituted in the new parliament, and there cannot be any further communication in the name of the group. Groups must take special care not to be seen to be campaigning on any side of the election.

Registering in the new parliament

APPGs will need to register again in the new parliament, after electing officers at an inaugural meeting. The close proximity of the Queen’s Speech to the summer recess means groups will have three months (rather than the usual two) to hold their first meeting, between 19 June and 15 September 2017, but for much of that time the House isn’t sitting. In fact, from the opening of parliament there are only 26 days on which MPs will be in parliament to hold a meeting.

Groups that don’t meet in this time will no longer be a registered APPG until they are able to once again meet the requirement of the rules on APPGs (pdf, 6.0MB). If they are unable to re-register by 8 November then the group will cease to exist.

Appointing officers

With a number of MPs retiring, and the normal churn of a general election, there is a chance that your group may need to find new officers before your APPG can restart any work they have been doing in this parliament.

Groups require at least four officers, with at least one MP from the governing party and one from the main opposition. Groups with just the minimum number of officers may end up with vacancies, and new officers will need to be found before the group can register.

If you are involved with an APPG with a small number of officers it is important you start considering suitable like-for-like replacements should any of your officers lose their seats. Finding officers for a group can be a hard task at any time, but if current polling is correct, there may be far fewer Labour MPs to choose from, and a lot of interest from other groups looking for officers.

If you do find yourself in this position, and are unable to hold an election before the summer recess, then you should be using the break to discuss candidates with existing officers, and making approaches, to ensure you can successfully hold a quorate meeting to elect your four officers in the short window between when parliament returns on 5 September and the APPG reporting deadline on 15 September.

Working with new MPs

General elections can bring hundreds of new MPs into parliament, and with them new opportunities to work with parliamentarians who support the work of your APPG. A new intake of MPs will bring a group of people keen to get involved in all aspects of parliamentary politics, who may be looking to make their mark early on, or raise attention to areas of personal or constituency interest.

This election also looks like it may return a number of well-known politicians to the House, and a post-election reshuffles could send other household names to the backbenches, so look out for experienced politicians with spare time on their hands and an interest in your cause.

If the focus of your APPG is particularly narrow it may be worth monitoring what candidates say during interviews and hustings, as they may reveal an interest or connection with the work of your group. Tools such as Google Alerts can help you do this for free.

Don’t forget your reporting requirements

If your APPG has received income, or gift in kind (including secretariat support), worth £12,500 either in the current reporting year or in the most recently finished reporting year, you will need to produce a closing statement to be approved by the chair, ideally before the general election.

As this is a snap election, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has made allowances (pdf, 370KB), understanding that there may not be time to have this formally signed off by the officers of the group before the election, but it must be done wherever possible.

Guidance on reporting, and a new registration form, will both be issued in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Groups page.

Opportunities in the new parliament

Whilst it can be disappointing to postpone work planned for an APPG in order to divert your attention to regulatory requirements or looking for new officers, it is important to focus on the opportunities that working with APPGs in the new parliament present.

Whoever is in charge on 9 June there is likely to be significant change in the priorities and policies of government. It is precisely during those times that APPGs that work cross-party, raise awareness, collect evidence and connect parliamentarians with organisations and individuals outside of Westminster are most valuable to you, your beneficiaries and politicians.

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