Nick Hurd, the former Minister for Civil Society, and two newly elected MPs from the Scottish National Party have been elected as officers of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Volunteering and Civil Society.
APPGs are informal cross-party groups that have no official status in parliament. The secretariat for the APPG on volunteering and civil society is provided by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the group meets about six times a year.
Yesterday was the group’s annual general meeting, at which four co-chairs of the group were elected. Susan Elan Jones, the Labour MP for Clwyd South, and the Labour peer Baroness Pitkeathley were both re-elected. Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, the Conservative peer who produced the official review of the Charities Act 2006 and who is reviewing the lobbying act, was elected co-chair having previously been vice-chair. Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society from 2010 until 2014, is the fourth co-chair.
Martin Docherty, the SNP MP for Dunbartonshire West, and Paul Monaghan, the SNP MP for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross, both became vice-chairs of the group. Both were elected to parliament for the first time in 2015, and both have a background in the voluntary sector: Docherty spent nearly a decade working for West Dunbartonshire Community and Volunteering Services in a policy role; Monaghan was previously the director of the Highland Homeless Trust, a charity that provides accommodation, support and guidance to people with housing problems.
The SNP has not named an official shadow to the Minister for Civil Society or a spokesperson on the voluntary sector.
Andrew George, the former Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives in Cornwall, who was co-chair of the APPG in the last parliament alongside Elan Jones and Pitkeathley, lost his seat last month.
After the brief AGM, the meeting heard from the Labour peer Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, who appealed for charities and voluntary sector stakeholders to contact relevant peers with any views about the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill, which has its second reading in the House of Lords today.
"I think that what is there will pretty much have cross-party support," she said. However, she said there was room for amendments and there wold be "some tidying up to do".
The APPG then heard discussion about a paper published by the NCVO in March on the use of volunteer internships in the charity sector, and the charity Macmillan Cancer Support discussed its volunteering and internship programmes.
Justin Davis Smith, executive director of volunteering and development at the NCVO, said there "absolutely is such a thing as a very legitimate volunteer internship", but added: "If the internship is clearly a job, then it should be paid at least at minimum wage." Docherty later suggested voluntary groups should in fact be paying the living wage, which is higher.
Kristen Stephenson, volunteer management and good practice manager at the NCVO, said organisations "must think carefully about what the purpose of the role is" when deciding if a position should be an internship, a volunteer post, a work experience post or something else. She said: "It’s important organisations don’t imply that taking on a voluntary internship will automatically mean getting a job."