The inside track: May 2020

Our latest update on what’s going on in Westminster that might impact charities, including more parliamentary focus on the impact of covid-19 on charities, some frontbench and committee changes, and the likely ending of virtual proceedings in the House of Commons.

Parliament

DCMS Committee report on the impact of covid-19 on charities

The DCMS Committee has published its report on the impact of covid-19 on charities, saying the funding provided so far is ‘too little too late’.

The report argues that the government should introduce the stabilisation fund advocated by NCVO and other sector bodies, criticising the government for only focusing on charities working directly on covid-19, the lack of transparency in the allocation of funding, and calling on the government to allow furloughed staff in charities to volunteer for their employers.

NCVO chief executive Karl Wilding has this week expressed concerns over the length of time that the publication of criteria for funding is taking.

NCVO’s coronavirus advice is being regularly updated.

House of Lords debate on support for charities

The House of Lords also held a debate on support for charities in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, with peers from all parties urging the government to do more to support the services being provided by charities, warning that society would be weaker in the future without action being taken.

My Twitter thread covers some of the key points.

People news

Trade minister Conor Burns has resigned after parliament’s standards committee recommended he be suspended from the House for seven days after finding he had attempted to intimidate a man involved in a financial dispute with his father, using parliamentary privilege. He has been replaced by Ranil Jayawardena.

Labour shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd has stepped down from the frontbench as he continues his recovery from covid-19. Louise Haigh, who had been covering the role, will now take it on permanently.

Committee changes

A number of changes to committees have been approved following the appointment of Keir Starmer’s frontbench, including Alex Davies-Jones replacing Jo Stevens on the DCMS Committee, Dawn Butler and Kim Johnson replacing Fleur Anderson and Lucy Powell on the Education Committee, and Bell Ribeiro-Addy replacing Rosie Duffield on the Women and Equalities Committee.

Are virtual parliamentary proceedings about to come to an end?

The Commons has adopted a hybrid model of proceedings to allow MPs to participate in debates even if they are staying away from Westminster, while the Lords has moved all of its business online (though technically these have not been counted as official proceedings). It hasn’t always worked perfectly, with Rishi Sunak voting the wrong way, countless poor connections, and even an unfortunate bit of unparliamentary language. It does also mean that interventions and unplanned contributions aren’t possible, but it has meant that those who otherwise couldn’t have been present have been able to scrutinise the government.

However as the government’s advice looks to gradually increase the number of those working, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg has argued that parliament should return to its normal ways of working (albeit with social distancing), to ‘set an example’ to the rest of the country. Hannah White of the Institute for Government has set out some of the issues in more detail, pointing out that in adapting their procedures to work from home if they can, parliament is already setting an example.

While the Speaker has said he will suspend proceedings if he believes them to be unsafe, it is the government that would need to bring forward an extension to the temporary orders agreed to allow hybrid proceedings, and it seems unlikely that they will do so after Whitsun recess.

 

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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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