The inside track: September 2020

Our latest update on what’s going on in Westminster that might impact charities, including mentions of the challenges faced by charities, Brexit’s return to the agenda, and a new cabinet secretary.

Parliament

Mentions of financial challenges for charities

As parliament returned from recess, MPs are increasingly looking at the damage that has been done by coronavirus, including to charities. In the recent opposition debate on protecting jobs and businesses, shadow minister for civil society, Rachael Maskell, highlighted the redundancies taking place in charities and the Never More Needed campaign’s five-point plan to ensure charities can make a full contribution to the recovery.

Brexit

Much of the debate in parliament this week has focused on the government’s controversial internal market bill. The government has done a deal with concerned backbenchers to ensure that any use of powers to breach the withdrawal agreement would be subject to a parliamentary vote, and should now pass it’s Commons stages. However, the Lords are likely to seek further changes with high profile peers on both sides of the Brexit divide expressing their concerns.

But for charities, there is also an urgent need to consider where we will be in January with time running out in negotiations with the EU. My colleague Ben has written about why charities must prepare for Brexit uncertainty, and the key areas to consider.

People news

A new cabinet secretary has taken over from the outgoing Sir Mark Sedwill. At 41, Simon Case is the second youngest person to head up the UK civil service, and faces a challenging start to the job. The Institute for Government has set out some of they key things to look out for.

And if you want more of an insight into his rise, media outlets ranging from the Financial Times to Tatler have published profiles.

Brexit fallout

The government’s position on international law has also led to a couple of additional resignations. Head of the government’s legal department Sir Jonathan Jones became the sixth senior civil servant to quit in a matter of months, and has now been followed by Lords minister and Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Keen of Elie.

New levelling up minister

MHCLG minister Simon Clarke, who was responsible for the government’s levelling up agenda, including the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, has stood down for personal reasons. His replacement is Luke Hall, first elected in 2015 after a career in the retail sector. He was previously minister for rough sleeping and has been replaced in that role by Kelly Tolhurst.

What should you be looking out for in what remains of 2020?

Many charities will be looking to influence the political agenda after a tough year, so I thought it might be helpful to look at some of the key upcoming dates.

The parties’ online conferences will be more low-key this year with parliament continuing to sit, but are still worth watching for hints of policy direction. In particular conferences are likely to be more member-dominated this year, with lobbyists possibly unconvinced by attempts at like for like replacements.

For many the key event of the autumn will be the comprehensive spending review, and the budget, expected to be held together. The budget could yet be delayed amidst the possibility of more stringent coronavirus restrictions being put in place, but is now not expected until at least mid-November.

And we also shouldn’t forget that with coronavirus delays, and Brexit uncertainty, the rest of the year is likely to be pretty packed when it comes to legislation, so charities should make sure they keep an eye out for bills that might affect them.

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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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