Proroguing parliament will 'shrink the democratic and civic space'

A statement by Acevo and 13 other sector bodies criticises the Prime Minister's decision to suspend parliament for up to five weeks

Parliament to be suspended by Boris Johnson
Parliament to be suspended by Boris Johnson

Charity sector representatives have warned that proroguing parliament for up to five weeks before the UK’s expected departure from the EU next month "shrinks the democratic and civic space" and restricts civil society.

The statement, issued yesterday by Acevo and 13 other sector bodies, comes after the government’s decision to suspend parliament for up to five weeks, which would restrict the amount of time available to MPs to debate Brexit before 31 October.

The decision to prorogue has attracted substantial criticism from across the political divide and Acevo’s statement echoed concerns about the decision’s impact on British democracy.

The statement says a thriving charity sector is a sign of a healthy democracy, and highlights the role charities play in representing people and issues that could otherwise be ignored or unheard by people in positions of power.

"For a number of years, civil society organisations have expressed concern that some politicians are seeking to restrict the democratic role of the social sector and that such restrictions demonstrate a shrinking of civic space," the statement says.

"The Prime Minister’s decision to suspend parliament for more than four weeks in the lead-up to one of the most important national decisions in recent history shrinks the democratic and civic space even further."

The statement also points out that a number of bills will be dropped as a result of proroguing parliament, because a new parliamentary session with a Queen’s Speech would be required once MPs return.

The beginning of a new parliamentary session means most bills not passed before the beginning of prorogation would be brought to an end unless an agreement was made to carry them over to the next session.

Acevo’s statement has been signed by the Charity Finance Group, the local infrastructure body representative Navca, the cancer charity Clic Sargent and the Small Charities Coalition, among others.

It comes after other recent warnings from charity sector experts about the impact a no-deal Brexit would have on the charity sector, with a letter coordinated by the Brexit Civil Society Alliance and sent to the Prime Minister this week warning that civil society was not ready for a no-deal Brexit.

A recent letter from Anne Fowlie, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, also warned that a no-deal Brexit would cause charities to collapse and leave a "vacuum of support" in local communities.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has asked the government to set up a fund to mitigate the effects of a no-deal Brexit on the sector.

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