The inside track: July 2018

Our latest update on what’s going on in Westminster that might impact charities includes resignation fallout and reshuffle news, a select committee report into what Carillion means for government outsourcing and a preview of next week in parliament.

Parliament

As we approach recess, the government still faces a couple of Brexit-related parliamentary tests.

On Monday, the taxation (cross-border trade) bill, more commonly known as the customs bill, will go through its remaining Commons stages, followed by the trade bill on Tuesday. The bills themselves largely cover technical matters, the ability of the UK to set its own taxation for cross-border trade, and the ability to implement trade agreements (though the trade bill is more controversial as it doesn’t provide for any parliamentary oversight of future trade deals). However, at least some newly emboldened pro-Brexit MPs may see these as an opportunity to assert their strength, so will be worth watching out for.

Select committee report on Carillion

The public administration committee has published its report into lessons learned from the collapse of Carillion. The report found that the government has focused excessively on cost, leading them to agree unrealistic contracts, some of which have later had to be renegotiated. They also argue that this focus has led to worse public services as contractors have been forced to concentrate on keeping costs down rather than providing high quality services to win contracts.

My colleague Michael has picked out a few key points from the report, and blogged about some of the measures announced by the government on public service markets in response to some of the concerns raised by the collapse of Carillion. NCVO also submitted evidence to the inquiry.

People news

After this week’s ministerial resignations, there has been a minor reshuffle, so I’ve looked at some of the key appointments for charities.

Jeremy Wright, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport

The former attorney general will now be the cabinet minister with responsibility for charities. The civil society strategy is set to be published over the summer which will be the key thing on his agenda when it comes to this aspect of his brief. A former barrister, Mr Wright does not have a strong background in charity policy, though he set up the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia in 2007, and as Attorney General has had to deal with a number of charity law cases.

Dominic Raab, secretary of state for exiting the EU

Previously the housing minister, prominent Leave supporter Dominic Raab has been appointed to replace David Davis, potentially allaying the concerns of some Brexit-supporting Conservatives. A former lawyer, he has previously campaigned for a British bill of rights to replace the Human Rights Act.

Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care

After Jeremy Hunt was promoted to foreign secretary, Matt Hancock takes over as secretary of state for health and social care. A former chief of staff to George Osborne, he has held a number of ministerial roles, including most recently in the department for digital, culture, media and sport.

What does this week mean for the future of the government?

On Monday I blogged about what the resignations of David Davis and Steve Baker meant for the future of the government and whether charities should be preparing for an election or a new prime minister. Later foreign secretary Boris Johnson and two parliamentary private secretaries, Chris Green and Conor Burns, also stepped down, but at the moment at least that doesn’t seem to have changed the fundamental position. In short, a challenge to Theresa May is possible, an election is unlikely and a Brexit deal looks a bit harder to complete in time for next March.

For those who do want a new PM, their problem seems to be that they have enough names to trigger a vote of no confidence in their leader, but probably not enough to win that vote. And if they fail, they won’t be able to launch a challenge again for 12 months.

However, the European Research Group, a group of up to 80 Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs is certainly large enough to make life difficult for the government as it seeks to implement its Brexit policy, so while so far attention has been focused on the small number of Remain-minded MPs who have threatened to vote against the government, the big threat now looks to be from those who think the proposed version of Brexit is too soft.

The government is due to publish its Brexit white paper on Thursday which could be the next point for some Conservatives to express their concern, and then next week the Commons will deal with amendments to the customs bill and the trade bill, which may be seen as the first opportunity for pro-Brexit MPs to demonstrate their strength.

None of this is to say that the government won’t be able to get the final deal through parliament, but if the ERG are prepared to back up their concerns with votes, thing could be about to get a lot more difficult, and charities will need to bear this in mind when making plans for Brexit.

Join us at our annual Campaigning Conference

We have now announced workshops for our annual Campaigning Conference, which this year takes place on 10 September. Topics include how to use evidence effectively in your campaign, using legal routes to campaign and developing a theory of change.

NCVO can help you to navigate Westminster and Whitehall

Make sure your voice is heard by those making the decisions. We can provide a range of advice, support and training, contact chris.walker@ncvo.org.uk for details.

If you want to learn more about how you can use parliament to secure change, our next Influencing Parliament course is on 14 September, and our next Influencing Select Committees course is on 23 November.

On 31 July we also have a free webinar on top tips for engaging with politicians, if you’re looking to step up your relationship-building ahead of party conference season.

If you want to take your campaigning to the next level, applications have opened for Series 19 of NCVO’s Certificate in Campaigning, starting in October.

Feedback

Please do get in touch with me at chris.walker@ncvo.org.uk if there’s anything you’d like to see included, or you have any other comments.

 

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Chris Walker Chris is a Senior External Relations Officer at NCVO, focusing on parliamentary work. He started his career working for several MPs in Parliament, and has also worked in public affairs and policy roles for the Federation of Small Businesses.

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