House of Lords: lack of dedicated charities minister ‘does not exactly instil confidence’

Peers have criticised the lack of a dedicated minister for civil society and questioned the addition of the role to the wide remit of Nigel Huddleston, who already oversees sport, tourism and heritage.

The concerns have been raised in a House of Lords debate this week.

Labour peer Baroness Pitkeathley, who is president of the NCVO, asked the government what assessment it had made of the impact of including charity policy within Huddleston’s existing ministerial roles within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

She warned government that ministerial engagement with charities is already “significantly lower than engagement with business, despite the huge contribution made by that sector during the Covid crisis”.

She said if the government would not appoint a dedicated charities minister could it consider having a nominated civil servant “responsible for engagement with civil society” in every government department.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Addington asked DCMS minister Lord Parkinson if he agreed that “having one minister in the smallest department in government, who is covering dozens of other subjects, does not exactly instil confidence”.

Addington added: “If they are not going to have a powerful enough Minister, when will we get an idea about a coherent strategy throughout government for dealing with the charitable and voluntary sector, which is simply too big to ignore?”

Parkinson said that aligning charities with sport and heritage “creates a real opportunity for an innovative and collaborative approach to growing the sector’s contribution".

The charity sector “is not being ignored”, Parkinson said, adding “ministers in every department, big and small work with a range of charitable and civil society organisations and greatly value the work that they do”.

The British Youth Council and NCVO are among other charity sector groups to raise concerns over the government’s decision to combine civil society and youth into the remit of sports, tourism and heritage.

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