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Fewer MPs declare that they have formal role at a charity than have a second job

12 Nov 2021 News

Fergus Burnett

Just one fifth MPs have declared a formal role, such as being a trustee or patron, at a charity or civil society organisation, according to our analysis. 

Some MPs have been under fire this week for the paid employment that they undertake alongside their constituency work, but MPs across all parties are also serving as trustees or patrons for charities. 

Civil Society News has been through the latest MPs register of interests and identified that 130 out of 650 have a current, or recent, formal role with a voluntary organisation. This compares with about 200 who have second jobs, according to BBC analysis. 

For this analysis we have included unpaid roles such as being a trustee, patron or ambassador at a registered charity or something described as a non-profit or social enterprise. We have also included unpaid positions on cross party and non-partisan think tanks, some of which are charities, and being a school governor. 

We have excluded unpaid roles in party political groupings, such as Conservatives Against Racism For Equality (CARFE), membership of professional bodies, visiting professor roles and fellowships at academic institutions.

MPs are required to publicly declare their financial interests. This includes a “miscellaneous” category, which does not explicitly state MPs declare their links to charities but does include: “Any other interest, if the member considers that it might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions or words as a member in the same way as a financial interest. 

“This might include an unpaid employment or directorship, or directorship of a company not currently trading, non-practising membership of a profession, or a fund established to defray legal costs arising out of the member's work, but from which no benefit has yet been received.” 

Most MPs will have regular contact with charities in their constituency and some may not have felt it necessary to declare their links on the register. 

Conservatives 

As the largest party in Parliament, the Conservatives also have the most links to voluntary organisations, 68, or 18% of their MPs. 

Their interests span a range of issues from education, animal welfare and involvement in what might be considered traditional Tory pursuits.

Examples: 

  • Former charities minister, Tracey Crouch, joined the board of Parkour UK, the national governing body for Parkour/Freerunning, in April 2019. 
  • Oliver Dowden, who had overall responsibility for charity policy until the recent reshuffle, has been a patron of a hospice since 2016. 
  • Nusrat Ghani, a former shipping minister, became a trustee for the Seafarers’ charity earlier this year. After joining the charity, she said: “We rely on seafarers for all our industries as well as stocking our supermarket shelves. Yet the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude towards the welfare of seafarers that most businesses and world leaders seem to have adopted will become difficult to maintain when supply chains that bring food, medicine and our online shopping direct to our doors - begin to shut down.”
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg is a trustee of the Oxford Literary and Debating Union Trust, which supports the charitable activities of the Oxford Union Society. 
  • Prior to being elected as an MP, Royston Smith became a trustee of Blue Lamp Trust, a charity which raises money, through driver training, to help vulnerable people who have been victims of crime.
  • Former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, became a trustee of charity Patient Safety Watch, an organisation which carries out and commissions research into patient safety issues in December 2019.  
  • Simon Hoare is an ambassador for Bowel and Cancer Research, having previously served as a trustee for the charity. 

Labour

Labour is the second largest party in Parliament with 199 MPs, and 18% of them hold voluntary positions, the same percentage as the Conservatives. 

Causes they support include gender inequality, poverty and the arts. 

Examples: 

  • Diane Abbot is a trustee of the Diane Abbot Foundation, an education charity. Her colleague Bell Ribeiro-Addy is also the charity’s unpaid company secretary. 
  • Rushanara Ali is a trustee of Sisters Trust, a charity that makes donations to organisations committed to challenging racial and sexual inequality. 
  • Chris Bryant is chairman of Rhondda Arts Festival in Treorchy
  • Chris Elmore is on the board of YMCA and until earlier this year he was its chair. 
  • Preet Kaur Gill an ambassador for Spring Housing Association, and prior to September 2020, she was a non-executive director.
  • Since May, Ian Mearns has been a trustee of Newcastle United Supporters Trust - Pledge 1892 Trust, which collects donations with a view to purchasing a stake in Newcastle United Football Club. 


Others 

Ten of the Scottish National Party (SNP)’s 45 MPs have some connection to civil society. 

Alyn Smith is honorary vice president of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 

Earlier this year he spoke out on the challenges the charity faced during the pandemic, and said: “Animal welfare and wellbeing is better served by their continuing dedication and passion. As honorary vice-president, I’m always delighted to champion their cause and help promote their efforts, particularly here in Stirling.

“The pandemic has led to a real shift in thinking, from consumers and animal lovers alike, regarding our collective relationship with nature. I truly hope a better era of animal welfare, and ethical action in the treatment of animals, is here – and that’s in no small part down to the work of the Scottish SPCA.”

Seven of the 12 Liberal Democrat MPs hold roles at voluntary organisations. Ed Davey, the party’s leader, holds roles with a number of organisations. 

Since September 2017 he has been a board member of POWERful Women (PfW), a professional initiative to advance gender diversity within the energy sector. He is also a board member at Fit for the Future, a network of mainly charities helping organisations to become climate-friendly and resilient, and a trustee of Tourism for All, a charity. 

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here.


 

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