The inside track: April 2020

Our latest update on what’s going on in Westminster that might impact charities, including parliamentary campaigning on coronavirus funding, the Labour leadership and frontbench appointments, and plans for parliament to meet virtually.

Parliament

Coronavirus funding for charities

Before parliament broke for recess, financial support for charities was raised as an issue by a number of MPs of all parties. Over 300 MPs and peers signed Stephen Doughty’s letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak, calling for funding to get charities through this crisis. The DCMS Committee also raised this issue, taking evidence from, among others, NCVO chief executive Karl Wilding, who warned that charities were set to lose an estimated £4bn of income over 12 weeks.

The £750m package announced by the chancellor was an important first step, but we don’t think it will prove to be enough, and we also need to make sure that the funding that has been provided is delivered swiftly, efficiently and fairly.

There will be a debate in the House of Lords on support for charities on 30 April, so if you can do get in touch with peers to let them know the impact it’s had on your organisation, and we’d also welcome you telling us about your experiences so that we can ensure we have good evidence to present to government and the media.

NCVO’s coronavirus advice is being regularly updated.

A virtual parliament?

As concerns over parliament’s spreading of the coronavirus have grown, it has had an extended recess, and an initial approach to virtual working has been announced. Parliament is initially meeting physically today to approve a motion allowing changes to proceedings, and from Wednesday, MPs will be able to take part in oral questions, urgent questions and statements via video link for the first two hours of each sitting day. If this is successful, this may be expanded to other business including legislation.

The House of Lords will conduct most business entirely as virtual proceedings, though initially these will not be broadcast live, with peers generally being advised to avoid attending parliament. However, these will not be official proceedings of the House, and cannot be used to make decisions, so when votes are required a smaller number of members will meet physically.

Former clerk of the House of Commons, David Natzler, has written in more detail about how the plans will work, and where there might be conflict over them.

People news

Keir Starmer has been elected as leader of the Labour Party, achieving over 50% (56.2%) in the first round of voting, ahead of Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy. Angela Rayner was elected as deputy leader, reaching the 50% threshold on the third round of preferences.

Labour frontbench appointments

Keir Starmer has now appointed his frontbench team, with key appointments for charities including:

Anneliese Dodds – Shadow Chancellor

Previously shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Anneliese Dodds has become the first woman to hold the role of chancellor or shadow chancellor. A former academic who also served in the European Parliament, she has repeatedly raised concerns about the financial impact of coronavirus on charities in recent weeks.

Ed Miliband – Shadow Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Secretary

The former leader of the Labour Party has returned to the frontbench, shadowing the business portfolio, also including responsibility for climate change, a longstanding policy interest of his. A former charities minister, he also recently signed a letter alongside fellow former charity ministers Rob Wilson and Nick Hurd calling for substantial financial support for charities.

Steve Reed – Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary

Taking over the communities and local government brief is Steve Reed. A former shadow charities minister, he has been an advocate for collaboration between local government in charities, both as an MP, and while a council leader in Lambeth.

Preet Kaur Gill – Shadow International Development Secretary

A backer of Keir Starmer, Birmingham Edgbaston MP Preet Kaur Gill has been promoted to the shadow cabinet, having previously been a shadow international development minister. She has argued that the British government should adopt a feminist development policy.

Jo Stevens – Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary

Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens has been appointed as shadow DCMS secretary, a portfolio that includes charities policy. She was previously a member of the DCMS committee, and on her appointment argued that charities need additional financial support to manage the impact of coronavirus.

Marsha de Cordova – Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary

A longstanding disability rights campaigner, Marsha de Cordova has been appointed as shadow women and equalities secretary, having previously served as shadow minister for disabled people. Prior to her election in 2017 Ms de Cordova worked for several charities providing advocacy for disabled people.

Rachael Maskell – Shadow Minister for Charities

The new shadow charities minister is York Central MP Rachael Maskell, who previously served in the shadow cabinet before resigning in 2017 to vote against triggering Article 50. She has previously worked for Unite, where she was the voluntary sector lead.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan – Shadow Minister for Mental Health

A surprise runner-up in the Labour deputy leadership election, Rosena Allin-Khan has been appointed as shadow minister for mental health, entitling her to attend shadow cabinet. A former A&E doctor, she has been volunteering in the NHS to help manage the current coronavirus outbreak.

Liberal Democrat leadership election

The contest to replace Jo Swinson has been postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak. The party has asked its activists to suspend campaigning and provide support in their communities. Former NCVO chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington has been asked to chair the party’s Community Coronavirus Taskforce.

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Chris Walker Chris is NCVO’s public affairs manager, 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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