Social Enterprises Performing Well, MP tells Westminster Hall

Earlier this week, Social Value Ambassador Chris White MP led a debate in Westminster Hall in Parliament focusing on the increasing role that social enterprises are playing in the British economy.

For those unfamiliar with the layout of the Parliamentary estate, Westminster Hall is commonly used to refer to two separate rooms. Firstly, there is the huge hall that is now normally filled by tourists and people waiting to meet MPs, which was initially designed to be the largest banqueting hall in Europe. Since that it has also been used as a real tennis court, served as the venue for Guy Fawkes’ trial, hosted speeches by the likes of Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama, and is now the site of one of the Parliamentary gift shops.

The second Westminster Hall is less well known, but now has much more significance when it comes to actual Parliamentary process. As demand for debates in Parliament grew, there became a need for the creation of a third debating chamber – an alternative to the House of Commons and the House of Lords. To meet this need, the Westminster Hall chamber was created and hosted its’ first debate in November 1999. Since then, there has been an increase in the use of this additional chamber, which provides a different dynamic to that present in the more partisan House of Commons.

Westminster Hall is only allowed to host adjournment debates – in other words a debate that will not lead to a vote. Whilst this means that legislative business per se is not discussed in the chamber, it provides an invaluable opportunity for backbenchers to raise issues of importance that would not otherwise be given Parliamentary attention. Many backbenchers use Westminster Hall to raise awareness of issues that are particularly pertinent to their constituency, but they can also be used to discuss and debate issues of national and even international importance. Debates tend to be less partisan than in the Commons, and the tone of the debate is also often more mellow.

Chris White’s speech opening the debate focused on the growth and the success of the social enterprise model, and he cited statistics showing that more social enterprises have seen a growth in turnover over the past year compared to SMEs. Continuing on that trend, social enterprises are more likely to expect to take on additional employees in the next twelve months, which shows that the social enterprise model is strengthening and proving to be successful.

Whilst there is no uniformly accepted definition of a social enterprise, Mr White defined the model as “a way of reforming our economy so that we combine competitiveness and profitability with social justice and fairness; a way of spreading growth across the country, so that all communities can benefit; and a way of engaging with parts of our society that have found it difficult to get involved in our economy, and allowing their talents to shine.”

Mr White argued that social enterprises are a new model of business which will ensure growth does not lead merely to higher profits, but reinvests profits into communities and back into the pockets of ordinary people. He argued that the Government should collate more statistics pertinent to the social enterprise sector so help provide a better picture of the strength of the sector, and allow progress to be tracked.

Responding for the Government Jo Swinson MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, explained that the Government is supporting the social enterprise sector through the regional growth fund, the European regional development fund, and community interest companies. This, she argued, has helped see the size of the social investment market increase passed £200 million, up more than £50 million over the past three years.

The debate is an interesting read for those involved with the social enterprise sector, and it is encouraging to see that the Government is taking the development of the sector so seriously. Towards the end of the debate Ms Swinson suggested that the Government is considering further action to support social enterprises, and this is something we will keep a close eye on during the next budget. In the meantime, political observers should continue to keep an eye on the order paper to see what business is coming up in Westminster Hall, as you never know what topics of interest will appear on the agenda!

Steve Clapperton

Giving in America

You might recall that last year we profiled a new report from the USHow America Gives - which provided a detailed look at patterns of charitable giving across America, and included a number of fascinating facts certain to inspire debate. This week has seen the release of the refreshed data, and once again features a number of eye-opening statistics.

The most generous states, in terms of percentage of income given to charity, retain a highly Republican bias, with nine of the top ten charitable states voting for losing Presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

Given that, it isn’t surprising to see that those describing themselves as Republican voters were more likely to give to charity than Democrats. Interestingly, those registered to vote were significantly more likely to give to good causes and also volunteer their time, raising the likelihood that a person’s sense of civic duty has a correlation with their support for charities and community organisations.

Looking at the most generous ten states, it is only Maryland (in tenth place) that voted for President Obama in November last year. In order, the top nine philanthropic states are Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina Idaho, Arkansas, Georgia and North Carolina.

Residents of Utah, the most generous state, give 10.6 per cent of their income to good causes. That perhaps isn’t a shock when it is considered that the Mormon Church, the dominant religious organisation in Utah, ask members to contribute one-tenth of their income as tithing.

It is the giving to religious organisations that skews the map towards the southern states in the ‘Bible Belt,’ with people living in these states tending to be more religious that the national average, and reflected in their relationship between charitable giving and religious causes.

The report also includes a focus on volunteering and found that 34.4 per cent of volunteer activity was associated with a religious organisation last year. The next most popular causes for volunteers were educational, social services and health.

As an interesting aside the report also looks at cities across the US, ranking them upon the levels of volunteering of their citizens. The top five cities were Minneapolis-St. Paul, Rochester, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Jacksonville. By comparison, the states where people were least likely to volunteer were Miami, Riverside, New York, Orlando and New Orleans.

There appears to be less of a geographical pattern when it comes to volunteering, with the states where people most likely to give their time representing the MidWest, North West, North West and South. The lack of geographical consistency is also reflected by the states where people were less likely to give their time.

The How America Gives report is interesting reading, and provides those interested in charitable giving with a number of discussion points. Perhaps one of the most interesting findings was the relationship between propensity to vote, and propensity to give, which suggests that those that can be categorised as more engaged members of society are also those most likely to give their time and money to good causes. This is certainly an area worthy of exploring in Britain, and it would be interesting if a similar relationship between civic engagement and charitable activity can be found here.

Steve Clapperton

'PbR Could See Charities Lose Money,' Says New Report

A report produced by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) has warned that plans by the Government to introduce payment-by-results (PbR) risk putting third sector (and private) organisations into a position where they are in danger of losing money if they try to cut re-offending.

Plans are in place to open up probation services to non-state providers, and it is hoped that charities and voluntary sector organisations will be able to put their expertise in working with offenders into practice and work towards reducing offending, by competing with private companies for contracts on a level playing field.

Unfortunately, the report by the SMF warns that the proposed payment mechanism may put charity finances at risk.

The logic behind PbR is that a proportion of a contract is paid to providers based upon a series of targets, and with rewards relating to reductions in reoffending – providers will be paid depending on the results that they produce.

However the SMF’s research found that in order to be sure of making any money at all, organisations winning contracts under PbR must achieve a reduction in reoffending of at least four percentage points – targeting smaller reductions would result in a financial loss.

By contrast, the report argues that if providers focused on cutting costs and allowed reoffending to rise by three percentage points it would actually prove to be more profitable for the provider. These negative performance incentives seem to go against the premise of PbR, and the SMF warns that these counterintuitive outcomes could be magnified in small contract areas.

SMF Director Ian Mulheirn warns that “the Ministry of Justice has effectively made it all but impossible for providers to achieve results good enough to get paid, without investors taking on impossibly high financial risks.

“Payment-by-results in reoffending makes a lot of sense in principle and many elements of the Government’s proposed scheme are good. But their payment proposals look set to wreck the financial incentives that providers and investors need to make this scheme work.”

At CAF (Charities Aid Foundation), we’ve made it clear that we believe the Government’s plans to introduce PbR for probation services have the potential to be incredibly beneficial for charity and voluntary groups, but only if they are introduced in a way that makes the system accessible for charities.

Our Funding Good Outcomes’paper sets out issues that we believe the Government needs to address in order to allow charities to compete for contracts on a level playing field, and we urge them to take a renewed look at the funding formulas to ensure that charities can compete to provide PbR services without putting their financial stability at risk.

We’ve been delighted to see a number of MPs have been pressing the Government to make sure that PbR works for charities. We know that so many charities have expertise in reducing offending, and are eager to use their experience to make sure that offenders are rehabilitated into society. We’re determined that PbR is introduced in a way that gives charities a chance to turn people’s lives around, and when Parliament returns in a few weeks we’ll continuing raising awareness of our concerns to make sure that PbR works for charities.

Steve Clapperton

How Can Charities Interact With Members of the House of Lords?

Last week I wrote about a recent debate in the House of Lords about the future of civil society, and noted that there are some distinct differences between the two Houses of Parliament – the House of Commons and the House.

We have a bicameral system of government, which means that we have two separate chambers responsible for scrutinising legislation before it becomes law.

The House of Commons is a directly elected chamber, with each Member of Parliament being elected to represent a distinct constituency, hence they are said to serve their constituents. Upon Parliament dissolving, each MP has to be re-elected, and the coalition Government has introduced legislation which states that each Parliament will now last for five years. Of course, the lack of a codified constitution means that legislation could be repealed at any time, but it is suffice to say that MPs are judged by their constituents on the job they have done locally as well as representing them in Parliament, and if they are deemed to have performed well then they are likely to be returned for another term.

The House of Lords is different. The majority of the House of Lords is now appointed – in fact, yesterday saw the Prime Minister announce the appointment of thirty new peers. However there also an elected element to the Lords, although this derives more from the history of reform, and attempted reform of the chamber rather than any prolonged commitment to an elected second chamber. Tony Blair’s Government whittled down the number of hereditary peers with the aim being that an increase in appointed peers would make the Lords more representative of the public as a whole. As a result, hereditary peers were given the opportunity to vote for 92 peers to continue serving, which means that we now have the contradiction of hereditary elected peers. There is also a small group known as the Lords Spiritual, who hold their seats on the basis of their ecclesiastical office.

The House of Lords also operates differently to the Commons. Whilst there is a Speaker, the role is much diminished as peers are expected to regulate themselves. It is also rare for members of the House of Lords to sit in a Government’s Cabinet, although there are of course exceptions, notably Lord Mandelson, who served as Secretary of State for Business. Because the Commons is elected, it holds supremacy over the Lords, as enforced by the 1911 Parliament Act which followed a ruckus between the two chambers over the passing of that year’s budget. However the House of Lords does have the power to defeat government legislation in that chamber, and rather than force it through using the powers granted by the 1911 Act, most governments tend to work on altering the legislation to achieve a compromise. Until recently, the House of Lords also served as the final court of appeal in legal cases, until those powers were redirected to the newly established Supreme Court.

All very interesting, but why is that relevance, I hear you ask.

Firstly, members of the House of Lords are often appointed because of their expertise in a particular area. Whereas MPs have a more general role and need to be on top of issues affecting all of their constituents, Lords are often appointed because of their experiences which make them an authority on a particular topic. Debates in the Lords tend to less partisan than the Commons – partly because of the presence of crossbenchers – but also because the Lords take it’s role as a scrutiniser of legislation very seriously. This means that debates in the Lords sometimes go into more detail, and scrutinise legislation in a way that the Commons is sometimes unable to due to a lack of time. There are a number of peers who also now serve charities as patrons or as chair, a role that former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard now performs for Help the Hospices. Campaigning and communications around highly technical issues that we deal with, such as Gift Aid reform, are therefore well worth targeting at Lords with an interest in charities and the ability to really delve into the details in depth.

Secondly, many Lords are extremely well connected. A number are former MPs themselves, and have strong links with their party’s internal machinery – links that are extremely hard to form in isolation. They can help charities by introducing them to relevant people who might be sympathetic to an organisation’s aims – both inside and outside Parliament – and can be of great use around manifesto writing time. Often determining who is responsible for a particular part of a party’s manifesto can be quite the minefield for organisations such as charities, and Lords who have been in politics for years are able to cut through the bureaucracy and give charities the chance to ensure that their policy ideas are heard.

Thirdly, the Lords has a number of useful tools that peers can use to pursue an issue, in a similar way to the Commons. Lords are able to initiate debates on subjects of issue, asks questions of relevant ministers, and hold and broker meetings to pursue a cause. When we were running the Give it Back George campaign last year, we were able to connect with a number of Lords who instinctively understood the threat posed to the charity sector by the proposed cap on tax relief, and wanted to help us pressurise the Government to withdraw the proposals. Working with them, we were able to use Parliamentary tools in the Lords to raise awareness of the issue and claim a crucial victory.

Fourthly, and finally, whilst a government’s activity – and the subsequent media interest – is dominated by the House of Commons, there are a number of ministers who operate from the House of Lords. They can be held to account by their fellow peers, and are responsible for promoting and defending Government policy. Charities should try and engage with these ministers in the same way they engage with those in the Lords, and to fail to do so would be a wasted opportunity.

The future of the House of Lords is constantly debated, with many people concerned that a move to a democratically elected chamber could put both houses on an equal footing and create ‘gridlock’ and others arguing that an appointed house is not compatible with the UK’s democratic principles. Regardless of your view, it is clear that engagement with peers is essential to charities in the pursuit of their agenda, and should not be overlooked despite the position of the Lords as the secondary chamber. Over the last year or so we’ve had excellent meetings with a number of Lords, and continued engagement with them will form a key part of our strategic Parliamentary plan going forward to ensure that the future of giving remains firmly on the political agenda.

Steve Clapperton

CAF at the Nexus Global Youth Summit 2013

My experience of attending the Nexus Global Youth Summit at the United Nations in New York is analogous with the story of the movement itself in that it all happened very quickly – and “movement” is definitely the right word because we are talking about an idea that has a breathless momentum.

Less than a month before arriving in New York my only engagement with Nexus had been reading blogs about last years Global Summit and this years European Summit held in London. I understood that Nexus was a network of 1000+ mostly young people from around the world, many of them in possession of or in line to inherit wealth, who share an interest in advancing human progress through philanthropy and social investment. Though I felt that this sounded like a progressive idea in principle I, an admitted cynic, worried that the reality would be not much more than a social exchange for the young and privileged and a feeding frenzy for philanthropy advisers.  image

Having been introduced electronically by a colleague to Jonah Wittkamper, the tireless co-founders of Nexus, we shared a short exchange about the Future World Giving project, a CAF initiative that I lead on that aims to assess what governments need to do to improve the conditions for giving and take advantage of a growing global middle class.   Exactly a month later I was addressing a group of influential philanthropists, advisors, activists and officials at the UN as part of a panel presenting at a Task Force on creating a Global Campaigns for Philanthropy.

That is Nexus in a nutshell – the seemingly naive belief of young people that they can achieve remarkable things, followed by the swift realisation of those implausibly lofty aspirations. Starting from nothing more than an idea in 2011 Nexus has grown to be a truly significant global movement in philanthropy with plans to establish new regional networks in the Middle East and Africa in 2014.

Attending sessions at the Global Summit in New York I was struck by the radical fervour for advancing humanity amongst attendees. Rather than being a cosy gathering of glib benefactors, Nexus is at the cutting edge of philanthropy. To the typical Nexus member it is no longer acceptable to see wealth generation and philanthropy as separate endeavours. Indeed, boundary pushing ideas such as philanthro-capitalism and impact investing felt like the new norm at Nexus and weighty subjects like attitudes to risk in philanthropy were tackled head on.

If there has been a criticism of Nexus up until now it is that whilst it provides an excellent space for networking and the sharing of ideas, it has so far missed the opportunity to use the platform is has created to influence decision makers at the highest levels. However, I get a clear sense that that is changing. Indeed, I was invited to Nexus to help frame a discourse on what members should be pushing for from governments in a global campaign on embedding a culture of philanthropy.

Perhaps it is inevitable that a movement that develops as quickly and organically as Nexus will seem a little chaotic, but in a way that is part of its strength. In the absence of stifling structure and formal process the most compelling ideas can rapidly gain traction without bureaucratic constraint. I really hope that Nexus retains its openness.

The Nexus Global Youth Summit feels like a movement that has found its time and I, and CAF will certainly continue to participate going forward.   

 Adam Pickering

What do Lords think about the future of civil society?

Although the House of Commons recently dissolved for summer recess, Parliament is still in session in the form of the House of Lords, and last week saw peers gather to discuss the future of civil society.

The debate was initiated by Baroness Prosser, A Labour peer who is also Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Kicking off the debate, Baroness Prosser spoke of the vastness of civil society, and argued that the Government is using charities and voluntary groups to fill the gap in the provision of services created by austerity measures. She went on to argue that further cuts to local authorities will threaten the future of charities who are also struggling to cope with an increase in demand – as the Back Britain’s Charities campaign recently highlighted in an event in Parliament.

Next to speak was Lord Hodgson (Conservative), who was responsible for the review of the Charities Act, which included 100 recommendations for the Government aimed at strengthening the charity sector. He argued that measures such as the introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act -  piloted through Parliament by Back Britain’s Charities campaign supporter Chris White MP - the Small Charitable Donations Act and the development of the social investment market are giving charities the opportunity to maximise donations they receive as well as giving them the chance to access new markets.

The House heard further speeches from Baroness Barker, who chose to define civil society as ‘the point at which the statutory, voluntary and private sectors come together to make a different to the common good and the lives of citizens.’ She referenced a recent report by Dr Catherine Walker from the Directory of Social Change, which was recently presented to the Parliamentary Inquiry on Growing Giving and raises concerns about levels of corporate giving. In particular, the report focuses on the location of charities that receive funding from companies, and found that donations are overwhelming concentrated in Greater London. Baroness Barker also warned that the way in which the Government is commissioning services means that charities are struggling to access contracts, which is something that CAF’s Funding Good Outcomes paper raised concerns about.

Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick made an interesting contribution, arguing that the way we view civil society has to develop beyond simplistic cash terms and instead focus on engagement terms. He raised BT’s Net Good commitment, which means that for every tonne of carbon consumed by BT it removes three from the atmosphere. At CAF, we’ve been calling on businesses to demonstrate their positive work to our Growing Giving inquiry, and to show how they are making a positive contribution to society. As Lord Hastings argued, the relationship between businesses and charities is growing in both stature and importance, and developing relationships with as well as learning from businesses is crucial to allow charities to maximise their potential.

Later on, Baroness Tyler of Enfield told the House of Lords about her work as co-chair of the Parliamentary Inquiry on Growing Giving, and told her fellow peers about the importance of charities getting young people involved in giving at an early age. She explained that young people are likely to support charities that are clearly aligned with their personal interests, and went on to argue that businesses need to do more to give employees an opportunity to give whilst at work, citing CAF’s recent research on payroll giving which found that demand far outstrips supply.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen was next to speak and used the joint CAF & NCVO UK Giving 2012 report to explain to Lords that charities are faced with a 20% drop in donations. She praised the work of the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights team – carried out in partnership with CAF – which found that using ‘nudge’ methods to give such as using a photograph of an employee to make giving more personal or reminding them that they can give in their will could help to increase giving. This study found that many people would consider giving more to good causes, and Baroness Gibson asked whether the Government would consider taking any action to put these concepts into practice. On that note, Lord Janvrin agreed that people in Britain are extremely charitable, and brought attention to CAF’s research which shows that people want to protect their spending on charitable donations, even when there are such severe pressures on household budgets.

Responding to the debate for the Government, Lord Wallace of Saltaire told the House of Lords that the Government is “providing as many incentives as we can to encourage companies to expand payroll giving,” and argued that companies and the CBI should also be encouraging it. In addition, he argued that there is a need to change the ‘moral atmosphere’ so that people remember they are part of a national society, as well as their local community, and take responsibility to contribute in a meaningful way.

It’s great that the House of Lords held such an interesting debate, and well worth a read for anyone with an interest in civil society – whichever definition of the term that you subscribe to. At CAF, we’re extremely proud to see our research quoted in Parliament, and we’ll continue to produce pieces of work about the sector to help people get a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities that charities face. In the meantime, readers of the debate may notice a difference and style and tone compared to the House of Commons. Come back next week to find out more about the differences between the two houses, and to find out about how the House of Lords operates.

Steve Clapperton

A Quick Update on Growing Giving…

As you may recall, earlier in the year CAF launched the Parliamentary Inquiry on Growing Giving – looking at the different opportunities that exist for people to engage with charity throughout their lifetime.

After the first stage of the inquiry examined the relationship between young people and charity, the second stage is focusing on the ways that people are able to engage with charity whilst at work. As the average lifespan increases, people will be spending more time working before they are able to retire. Many people have so much on in their personal life that they aren’t always able to give in their free time, so it is really important that employers make it possible for them to support good causes through their work.

Last week, a number of top businesses joined our panel of Parliamentarians to discuss the future of workplace giving. The evidence session, held in the Jubilee Room in the Palace of Westminster, featured representatives from household names such as Google, BT, The Prince’s Trust and Morrisons, all of whom were keen to come along to explain how they help encourage and facilitate their employees working with charities, as well as outlining to the panel the changes they would like to see to make it easier for employers and employees to give.

You can read a more detailed analysis of the session here.

Over the past few decades the way that people work in this country has changed, with the introduction of employee-friendly policies such as flexible working. The invention of technologies such as the Internet, laptops and smart phones means that people are able to work remotely and has changed people’s working habits. Just as businesses have developed to make it easier for people to do their jobs whilst fitting in with their busy lives, they need to also develop to make it easier for people to support charity through their work.

It’s possible that future generations will place greater emphasis on the charitable work that a company provides or supports when applying for a job. In fact, the inquiry has heard anecdotal evidence that graduates are now increasingly turning to a company’s CSR page on their website before deciding whether to put their name forward for a job. If that is the case, it suggests that companies will be forced promote and develop their charitable activity to ensure that they are able to recruit the next generation of employees.

One area that the evidence session discovered to be a major area of interest was the relationship between SMEs and charities. The majority of businesses in Britain are SMEs, and it is much harder to obtain information about their work with charity. This may be because many SMEs are unable to promote their charitable work in the same way as larger organisations, or because they struggle to account for it in an understandable manner, but it is an area that the inquiry is now looking to investigate in greater detail.

Since being launched there’s been a great deal of interest in the Parliamentary Inquiry on Growing Giving from charities, businesses, members of the public, the media and politicians – not least from the Prime Minister, who wrote to Rt Hon David Blunkett MP to praise the value of this work. It’s really important that people are able to have their say about how we can improve the opportunities to engage with charity, so take a look at the inquiry and share your experiences of workplace giving, and thoughts on how we can improve it so that it works for employers, employees and charities.

Steve Clapperton

Shadowing scheme opens applications

The NCVO has recently started receiving applications for their ‘A Day in the Life’ work shadowing initiative, which invites executives from both civil society and government to experience a day in the other’s shoes.

There are eight government departments taking part, and historically feedback on the project has been incredibly positive, with over 80% of participants stating that it was ‘worthwhile’. The idea is to build insight and empathy between government and the charity sector at the same time as developing a better working knowledge of processes and procedures.

The scheme is popular too, with over 1,100 participants last year, and it is open to all levels of seniority ‘from chief execs to admin staff’ completely free-of-charge.

As with the charity twinning exercise recently launched by Charity Choice, it seems that ‘A Day in the Life’ offers a real opportunity for shared learning, and although it doesn’t formally aim to forge an ongoing relationship between the two parties, it does make a connection that can be developed according to what proves to be useful and relevant to those taking part. 

There seems to be a consensus that innovation in learning is something that can strengthen voluntary organisations in these difficult times, and initiatives like ‘A Day in the Life’ are leading the way in this respect. What is more, on the other side of the coin, few could deny the value of demonstrating the way charities work in practice to those within Whitehall who can often seemed quite far removed from the coalface.

Gaining and sharing understanding is fantastic but, of course, it is always the first step and as this project progresses (it was first launched in 2009) it would be interesting to see if measurable benefits are tracked and/or there is a noticeable, or even quantifiable benefit to the sector emerging.

What Role Do EDMs Play In Parliament?

Last week saw the tabling of an Early Day Motion in Parliament in support of the Back Britain’s Charities campaign. The motion, tabled and supported by members of all of the major political parties in Parliament, acknowledges the struggles that charities are facing, applauds the work of the Back Britain’s Charities campaign in aiming to improve the giving environment for charities, and calls on the Government to ensure that charities are provided with support.

But what exactly are Early Day Motions?

Early Day Motion (EDM) is “a colloquial term for a notice of motion given by a Member for which no date has been fixed for debate.” During the early years of Parliament there was little need for EDMs, a Members were given a large part of the House’s time to put forward their bills and motions. However as it was sometimes difficult to allocate a future date for the debate of a motion, MPs began to give notice that they intended to raise matters at a future, unnamed date.

By 1865 the Notice Paper included a section dedicated to “Notices of Motions for which no days have been fixed,” which included topics intended for debate, and others used to express opinion. Sometimes MPs would collaborate to table similar motions in order to demonstrate the importance of an issue.

As Governments began to use more Parliamentary time for Government business, the amount of time allocated to business from the backbenches reduced, and consequently the use of EDMs increased. It wasn’t until the 1940s that MPs put the “early” into “early day motion,” and was used to indicate that the motion was meant for debate at same point in the near future. Interestingly, during this time not all EDMs came from backbenchers – in fact, some Ministers actually used EDMs as a way of indicating that they planned to bring forward a Bill.

The use of EDMs increased over the remainder of the century, from about 100 in each session in the 1950s to 1,000 by the 1983-84 session. By the end of the 1990s, 1,400 was the norm for an average session. With the increase in the usage came opposition, with a recent, somewhat ironic, EDM tabled by Graham Evans calling for the abolition of EDMs.

There are multiple ways that MPs use EDMs, which include:

·        ‘Praying’ against a Statutory Instrument, which the Leader of the Opposition uses to indicate that they will seek a debate on an SI

·        Using their influence as a backbencher to try and change the Government’s views, even if the Prime Minister is from the same party

·        An all-party motion expressing support for an issue on a non-partisan basis, such as that in support of the Back Britain’s Charities campaign

In many respects EDMs act as a form of Parliamentary petition, and are a useful way of judging support for a particular issue. Whilst very few now are tabled with an intent or expectation of generation a debate in Parliament, they remain a useful tool for generating interest and media coverage about an issue. Some MPs, such as Ministers and Whips, are unable to sign EDMs, which means that receiving the backing of all MPs for a cause is impossible, regardless of the levels of support for it.

Whilst receiving mass support does not actually mean that an EDM will be debated, recent EDMs receiving the support of more than 300 MPs include a motion in support of Carers Week, one criticising the practise of illegal logging, and another arguing against the abolition of the Post Office Card Account.

Since being tabled, the Back Britain’s Charities EDM has received support from MPs from all parties. Realistically this won’t lead to a debate in the Commons or a change in the law. However it has raised the profile of the campaign in Parliament, given us the opportunity to engage with more MPs, and generated publicity about the aims of the campaign, and we’ll continue to use it to encourage more MPs to demonstrate to their constituents that they are backing Britain’s Charities.

Steve Clapperton