The inside track: January 2021

Our latest update on what’s going on in Westminster that might impact charities, including a return to remote parliamentary proceedings, the end of the Brexit committee, and thoughts on what the deal means for charity campaigners.

Parliament

Covid debates

A sharp rise in covid cases, and deaths, followed by a national lockdown has meant that parliament has again been dominated by questions of coronavirus regulations, and how to support those affected. That of course includes the many charities who have seen increasing demand for their services, while their income has fallen. Alongside a number of other charity infrastructure bodies, we are backing the Never More Needed campaign’s five point plan.

Parliament goes remote again

Given the current restrictions, parliament has again moved to largely remote sittings, with few MPs choosing to attend in Westminster. The increased restrictions mean that a decision has been taken to temporarily suspend proceedings in Westminster Hall and sitting Fridays.

Brexit committee

The Future Relationship with the European Union Committee is to be wound up, after leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said the government would not renew the temporary standing order that set it up. Committee chair Hilary Benn had requested a six month extension to allow the committee to complete a final report on the Brexit deal, exchanging correspondence with Mr Rees-Mogg.

Budget

The next budget has been set for 3 March, and is likely to feature more news on covid-19 support packages.

What does the Brexit deal mean for campaigners?

The Brexit deal provided some certainty for charities on many of the most pressing practical challenges, but there remains a lot of uncertainty over how various aspects of the deal will be interpreted and enforced when it comes to making policy changes.

While non-regression clauses have been agreed, these are based on the impact to trade and investment, so may still provide opportunities to diverge, and campaigners might be concerned about the reports that the government is looking to loosen employment regulation.

Charities will certainly need to be vigilant about rights and standards that have previously been protected at EU level, but the prioritisation of the ability to diverge from EU rules could provide opportunities in some areas. Where the EU approach could be improved, there is now a chance to persuade a government that is keen to demonstrate the advantages of being able to diverge, so it’s important to make sure that opportunity is taken.

People news

There has already been a small reshuffle in the new year, with Alok Sharma leaving the cabinet to concentrate full-time on his role as president of COP26 climate change conference. Kwasi Kwarteng is the new BEIS secretary, with Anne-Marie Trevelyan becoming the new climate and energy minister after leaving the cabinet last year due to the merger of DFID and the Foreign Office.

Labour have also made changes to their frontbench team after several MPs resigned from their shadow ministerial roles to break the Labour Whip on Brexit. Jack Dromey and Matt Rodda move to the shadow cabinet office and work and pensions teams respectively, while Sam Tarry joins the transport team, and Fleur Anderson is now PPS to shadow international development secretary Preet Gill.

Other appointments

  • Antonia Romeo has been appointed as the new permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice, moving from the Department for International Trade.
  • A number of new members of the House of Lords have been appointed, including a number of former MPs and MEPs. From a charity point of view, the Conservative appointments include Stephanie Fraser, chief executive of Cerebral Palsy Scotland.

 

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Avatar photo 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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