The inside track: August 2018

Welcome to our latest update on what’s going on in Westminster that might impact charities. This month we look at what went on in the final few weeks before recess, the new sifting committee for scrutinising secondary legislation related to Brexit, and our summer reading for campaigners.


Days before the start of recess, the government still had a couple of key Brexit-related bills to get through the Commons. In the aftermath of Chequers this became something of a proxy war between the Conservative pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG), and Remain-minded Conservative rebels.

The ERG managed to get a number of amendments to the customs bill approved. These included ruling out a customs border in the Irish Sea, and preventing the UK from collecting tariffs as set out in the Chequers deal unless the EU does the same, causing defence minister Guto Bebb to resign.

The following day’s trade bill saw a retaliation from those Conservative MPs seeking a softer Brexit. They won a vote on an amendment to make it a negotiating objective for the UK to remain in the European Medicines Agency, and then narrowly lost a vote which would have required to government to seek a ‘frictionless free trade area for goods’.

New Brexit sifting committee

MPs have formally approved the creation of the European Statutory Instruments Committee which will help to determine what level of parliamentary scrutiny secondary legislation introduced under Withdrawal Act is subject to. A page has also now been launched which lists statutory instruments being introduced using powers in the Withdrawal Act. The committee has made the news, at least in part, because it is the first parliamentary select committee required to be gender-balanced.

People news

In July’s inside track we highlighted the resignations of David Davis, Steve Baker, Boris Johnson, and parliamentary private secretaries Chris Green and Conor Burns. These resignations were shortly followed defence minister Guto Bebb, who resigned in order to vote against the government on ERG amendments to the Trade Bill, and parliamentary private secretaries Robert Courts and Scott Mann, who both resigned over the government’s handling of Brexit.

In other news, Matt Hancock, the newly appointed secretary of state for health and social care, has taken his special advisers Lottie Dominiczak and Jamie Njoku-Goodwin with him from DCMS.

Civil society strategy

As you’ll probably be aware, last week the government launched its new Civil Society Strategy. To avoid repetition it is best to just signpost you to the blog Elizabeth Chamberlain, head of policy and public services at NCVO, wrote last week on what you need to know about the strategy. We have also published a series of blogs on specific areas in the strategy, including one on what it says about campaigning.

Summer reading list

As the summer is (usually) a quieter time for campaigners, we thought we’d give you a list of books that you might want to read before recess finishes and everything gets busy again.

So, in no particular order, we’d recommend:

Join us at our annual Campaigning Conference

This week we announced that Ruth Ibegbuna, founder and former-chief executive of the award-winning RECLAIM Project, will be our afternoon keynote speaker at this year’s Campaigning Conference, taking place on 10 September.

If you work in public affairs, policy or media in the voluntary sector, the Campaigning Conference is a great opportunity to brush up on your skills and knowledge, as well as meeting your peers working across the sector.

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 for details.

At the end of July, we ran a free webinar on top tips for engaging with politicians, which I’m sure many of you joined us for. If you missed it, you can catch up now.

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.

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.

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Rosie joined NCVO in 2018 as a trainee external relations officer after working as a programme manager for a literacy charity. Rosie supports both NCVO’s parliamentary work and media relations, including Constructive Voices, and is responsible for organising our annual Campaigning Conference.

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