The inside track: June 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, the end of virtual proceedings in parliament and a Lords inquiry looking into the effect covid-19 has had on public services.

Department for International Development

The prime minister has announced that he is merging Department for International Development (DfID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to create the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. This is following a review, conducted by crossbench peer Lord Bew, into UK aid spending. At the beginning of June a report by the international development committee supported the case for DfiD to remain a standalone ministry.

Bond, the UK network for organisations working in international development, have released a statement on the merger.

Hybrid parliament

Just when you thought we all had our fill of unprecedented incidents taking place around the world, the beginning of June saw MPs forming socially-distant orderly queues to cast their votes in person. During lockdown, some MPs have appeared in the chamber while others appeared via video link with remote voting taking place for the first time in parliamentary history. However, leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed MPs could not properly hold the government to account in this way.

7 June saw the introduction of socially-distanced voting across parliament which has been criticised from all sides of the House. A vote on the new proceedings passed by 261 to 163 with 31 Conservatives voting against the government. Moves to end virtual proceedings have also been criticised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) saying it cannot be right to exclude MPs who are older, with disabilities and with health problems. However, last week saw Alistair Carmichael MP secure an emergency debate on the subject which saw Rees-Mogg make a u-turn on the proposals. MPs are now eligible for proxy voting if they cannot attend Westminster for medical or public health reasons relating to the pandemic.

People news

Over the past month, we’ve seen a couple of resignations around the breaking of lockdown rules and some notable appointments.

  • Douglas Ross who was under-secretary of state for Scotland resigned following the decision by number 10 not to fire Dominic Cummings. He was replaced by Iain Stewart in early June.
  • Labour MP Rosie Duffield resigned as whip after breaking lockdown rules.
  • Former Downing Street parliamentary private secretary Simon Case returned to number 10 as a permanent secretary. His new role will focus on leading the government’s response to coronavirus.
  • A new chair of the office for budget responsibility was announced with the appointment of Richard Hughes taking over from Robert Chote.

DCMS oral questions

The beginning of June saw oral questions to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Tabled questions by Stephen Hammond MP and Imran Khan MP focused on what steps the government is taking to ensure the sustainability of civil society and charities affected by the covid-19 outbreak. Responding was minister for digital infrastructure Matt Warman, who pointed to the government’s £750m support package announced in April and the £200m made available to local charities through the community support fund. Additionally, Matt Vickers MP tabled a question regarding the department’s steps to tackle loneliness to which the Secretary of State Oliver Dowden responded by pointing to the £5m for charities tackling loneliness.

DCMS select committee report

The DCMS select committee has released the government’s response to the committee’s report on the covid-19 crisis and charities. Our response to this report is outlined by our twitter thread.

House of Lords select committee on public services

The House of Lords select committee on public services have put out a call for evidence on what the covid-19 experience can tell us about the future role, priorities and shape of public services. NCVO is compiling evidence for a submission to this inquiry. The request for evidence is made up of 21 questions which fall broadly into four categories.

  • Integration of services
  • Inequalities in access and outcome
  • Relationships between local and national services
  • The role of civil society (including charities, voluntary and community groups)

If you would like to contribute into the evidence we are compiling please contact our senior policy officer, Catherine Goodall. Our recent blog post outlines what NCVO is doing in preparation for the inquiry. The deadline for evidence is the 29 June.

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Roshni is public affairs officer at NCVO. She also leads on NCVO's internal communications.

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