The inside track: January 2022

Our latest update on what’s going on in Westminster that might impact charities, including the progress of legislation, the failure to appoint a chair of the Charity Commission, and Labour frontbench changes.

Parliament

Charity Commission chair

The government will have to go back to the drawing board. Their preferred candidate for chair of the Charity Commission, Martin Thomas, stepped down from the role after reports emerged of complaints made against him in a previous role.

Having approved his appointment while being unaware of these reports, this week the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee has heard from the commissioner of public appointments, William Shawcross and departmental officials.

Given the need for public confidence in the recruitment process, we think the process should be rerun:

  • with an increased focus on securing a diverse pool of applicants
  • with necessary due diligence of the final appointment.

Charities bill

The charities bill reached another milestone this week, as it passed its third reading in the House of Lords. The bill is supported by the charity sector and has been welcomed by peers.

There’s been debate over some areas, most notably over the rejection of the Law Commission’s recommendation; the recommendation is that the Charity Commission should be able to refer points of law to the Charity Tribunal without the approval of the attorney general, as is currently required.

The bill will now move to the House of Commons next week.

Dormant assets bill

The bill has been in committee in the House of Commons this week. Nigel Huddleston restated that a community wealth fund would be considered as part of the consultation on how money from dormant assets should be spent.

However, he did press ahead with the government’s suggestion to remove an amendment agreed in the House of Lords. This amendment would’ve included the power to create community wealth funds in the bill.

NCVO’s part of the Community Wealth Fund Alliance and supported the Lords amendment. The Alliance will be pushing to make sure a community wealth fund is mentioned in the bill.

People news

The prime minister’s long-term position continues to be uncertain, after he apologised for attending a drinks party at Number 10 during the first lockdown in May 2020. Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has joined opposition politicians in calling for the prime minister to resign. It may be that most Conservative MPs will wait for the findings of Sue Gray’s review into this matter.

Labour reshuffle

Following the cabinet reshuffle in September, Sir Keir Starmer chose to make changes to his own frontbench:

  • appointing Rachel Reeves as shadow chancellor
  • David Lammy as shadow foreign secretary
  • moving Lisa Nandy to shadow Michael Gove’s new levelling up department.

Lucy Powell is taking up the role of shadow culture secretary. Rachael Maskell, Labour’s shadow minister for civil society, resigned from that post before Christmas, to vote against requiring the NHS and social care staff to be vaccinated.

By-elections

Two new MPs have taken their seats after winning by-elections. Louie French won Old Bexley and Sidcup for the Conservatives. Helen Morgan gained North Shropshire for the Liberal Democrats from the Conservatives, following Owen Paterson’s resignation from parliament.

The upcoming by-election in Southend West is likely to be won by the Conservatives. Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, and Reform UK said they wouldn’t stand candidates after the murder of previous MP Sir David Amess. Charities were among those to pay their tributes to Sir David after his death.

A by-election will also be held in Birmingham Erdington after the sudden death of Labour MP Jack Dromey last week.

The Road Ahead 2022

Next week, NCVO’s annual publication highlighting trends that charities should be looking out for will be published. If you want to hear more about this year’s findings, you can join the authors and guest speakers at the Road Ahead 2022 launch event on Tuesday 18 January.

 

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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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