The inside track: November 2018

Our latest update on what’s going on in Westminster that might impact charities includes a new civil society minister, news on a Brexit deal, and whether we should expect a new prime minister.

Parliament

The announcement of a draft withdrawal agreement means that parliament will vote on the deal next month. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act requires parliamentary approval for a Brexit deal to be ratified, so unless the government can persuade parliament to approve something before 29 March we will leave the EU without a deal.

At the moment it looks unlikely that this will be approved by parliament, though the government hope that as we get closer to the vote, the threat of no-deal will persuade more MPs to back what has been negotiated. The procedure committee has recommended that amendments to the motion should be considered before the vote on the deal.

Amendments to the motion will not bind the government to action, but they could make the approval granted conditional. For example, MPs supporting the People’s Vote campaign may look to make approval conditional on there being a referendum. Different amendments would have different implications for the legal status of approval.

People news

New minister for civil society

Mims Davies has been appointed as the new minister for sport and civil society after Tracey Crouch resigned over delays to the introduction of a maximum £2 tariff for fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). She moves from the Wales Office where she had been a junior minister since July.

She was first elected in 2015, and is the trustee of a small military charity, Building Heroes. She campaigned for the UK to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.

New Brexit secretary

In light of Dominic Raab’s resignation, the relatively little-known Steve Barclay has been appointed as the new Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) secretary. Previously a minister in the Department of Health and the Treasury, he was first elected in 2010, and supported Leave in the 2016 referendum. The Prime Minister has taken responsibility for leading negotiations with the EU, so DExEU will mainly be focused on implementing Brexit domestically.

Return of Amber Rudd

Amber Rudd has returned to the cabinet as work and pensions secretary, after being forced to resign as home secretary over the Windrush scandal in April. In her first oral questions session, she said she would listen to what charities working on universal credit were saying about the policy.

Sir Jeremy Heywood

Former cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has died, two weeks after retiring as cabinet secretary for health reasons.

His replacement is Sir Mark Sedwill, who had been acting cabinet secretary in Sir Jeremy’s absence. He was previously national security adviser.

Will we have a new prime minister?

Much of the discussion in Westminster over the last week has been over a potential challenge to the prime minister’s leadership, with the European Research Group looking to trigger a contest in response to the announcement of the proposed withdrawal agreement. At the time of writing, the 48 letters required to force a vote of confidence among Conservative MPs had not been received by Sir Graham Brady, chair of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, but it’s certainly possible that the threshold will be reached later this week.

It’s expected that the prime minister would still win that vote if triggered, though the fact that it would prevent this method being used for 12 months might encourage some to move earlier than they would have liked to. However, even if she gets through this, the more pressing problem will be the role of the DUP. The DUP have now on several occasions voted against the government on matters covered by their supply and confidence agreement, and have accused the prime minister of ‘breaking promises’ over Brexit. The government insists the agreement remains in place, but that seems somewhat academic if it is to be routinely broken. Because of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, this won’t necessarily be fatal for the government, but it does make it hard to see how Theresa May can keep a functioning majority in the longer term.

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 improve your engagement with select committees, receive tips on how to make your written submissions stand out, and learn how to make sure senior staff are fully prepared to give evidence, our next Influencing Select Committees course is on 23 November.

Brexit updates

NCVO is a member of the Brexit Civil Society Alliance, a UK wide alliance of charities, voluntary and campaigning organisations, all working together to ensure that the voices of civil society are heard in the Brexit process.

The Alliance publishes a weekly e-bulletin which rounds up the latest Brexit news, and helps unpick some of the technical details that are useful for charities to be aware of. You can sign up on their website.

We’ve also produced a factsheet for charities to help them prepare for the impact of Brexit.

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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