The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has promoted Matt Hancock to Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the government department that includes the Office for Civil Society, as part of a wider reshuffle.
Hancock, who is the MP for West Suffolk, was previously the minister for digital within the department and has was appointed yesterday after the former Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley, was moved to the Northern Ireland department.
The Office for Civil Society, which is responsible for charity, social enterprise and youth policy, is part of DCMS, and is currently led by Tracey Crouch, minister for sport and civil society. Announcements about junior ministerial roles were made today and Crouch is continuing in her role.
Delighted to continue as Sports & Civil Society Minister. So much on the agenda for the incredible sectors I am responsible for and am looking forward to continue working in partnership with some amazing people, charities and organisations throughout 2018— Tracey Crouch (@tracey_crouch) January 9, 2018
The charity sector can expect an announcement about a new charity tax minister after Andrew Jones, who became the Treasury minister responsible for charity tax last summer, was moved to Conservative Party head office as vice-chair for business engagement.
One of Hancock’s first tasks is likely to be announcing his preferred candidate to be the next chair of the Charity Commission. William Shawcross, the current chair, will complete his term at the end of the month. Last year Bradley delayed the pre-appointment hearing before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee because a decision had not been made.
In a written answer in Parliament yesterday, Crouch said that six candidates were interviewed in November and “an announcement is expected in due course”.
Engagement with the sector
While he was a minister for the Cabinet Office Hancock announced a new clause in grant agreements which would have effectively banned charities from using government grants to lobby Parliament.
This was met with anger from the charity sector and the clause was eventually watered down when new grant standards were introduced.
Hancock has mentioned charities 61 times in Parliament, according to They Work For You. Recently most of these reference charities as one of the sectors likely to be affected my digital economy initiatives he has been leading on in government.
Hancock has also been a vocal supporter of the Lobbying Act, a piece of legislation charities say has reduced their ability to campaign.
Charity representative bodies congratulated Hancock on his appointment, said they were looking forward to working with him and reminded him of the role that sector plays in society.
NCVO: ‘He is dynamic, determined and full of ideas’
Aidan Warner, external relations manager at NCVO, said: “Anyone who watches politics knows that Matt Hancock is dynamic, determined and full of ideas. We’re looking forward to hearing more about his vision for charities and volunteering.
“The important lesson to take from the anti-advocacy clause is that he was willing to compromise and work with us to come to a positive solution for the sector.
“We’d like to thank Karen Bradley for her support for the sector during her time and wish her the best for her new role.”
CFG: ‘Hopefully this can be a fresh start’
Caron Bradshaw, chief executive of the Charity Finance Group said: “As effectively number two in DCMS, Matt Hancock’s promotion has not come as a surprise, but hopefully this appointment can mark a fresh start in terms of engagement with the charity sector.
“He brings significant experience of digital technology from his previous brief and our sector needs to undertake its own digital transformation, so this move could be really positive for charities. His predecessor also made strong efforts to reach out to the sector on Brexit, and I hope that this is something that the new Secretary of State will continue. We need the government to listen to the voice of charities on this critical issue.”
Acevo: ‘We will not shy away from topics where we have previously disagreed’
Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, said: “I would like to thank Karen Bradley for her engagement with Acevo during her time as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. We wish her well in her new role as Northern Ireland Secretary.
“I look forward to working with Matt Hancock in his new role and hope to meet with him in the coming months. His previous experience working with the Office for Civil Society while at the Cabinet Office should provide him with a ready insight into the many challenges facing the sector.
“His commitment to digital improvement aligns with the current drive in the charity sector to maximise the opportunities offered by technology. I hope there will be opportunities for DCMS and the charity sector to work together to further work on digital transformation.
“Equally we will not shy away from discussions on topics where we have previously disagreed. Matt Hancock has previously spoken in support of the Lobbying Act, a piece of legislation on which Acevo is currently seeking reform. We will continue to advocate for the right of charities to campaign and the recognition that it is a fundamental part of charitable activity.”
ACF: ‘We hope he draws on the rich experience of foundations’
Keiran Goddard, director of external affairs, said: “We congratulate Matt Hancock on his appointment as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
“In particular, the Secretary of State’s previous focus on technology will be welcome in a sector that is grappling with how to most meaningfully embrace its possibilities. We look forward to a relationship based on mutual engagement, evidence and a recognition of the importance of a healthy and thriving civil society.
“In doing so, we hope that the Secretary of State draws on the rich experience that the foundation sector has in catalysing social good where it is absent and preserving it where it is under threat.”
Navca: ‘hopefully he recognises the need to invest in digital skills’
Tom Watson, business and communications lead at Navca, said: “I'm hopeful that Matt Hancock will embrace his new role and be a true supporter of charities and the vital role they play in society. His appointment should offer time to reflect upon his previous work and review the Lobbying Act in relation to charities he announced whilst in the cabinet office.
“His support of the digital economy will hopefully mean that he recognises the value and the desperate need for investment in digital skills and technology for the charity sector. I would hope he will fully engage with sector leaders in pushing forward the Charity Strategy to realisation, and that this doesn't cause more delays in the process. The time for action is now, with huge pressures on public sector services and a growing need for charity sector support. In a nutshell, let's work together, let's get things done that can really help and not hinder the on some important issues sector.”
Social Enterprise UK: ‘Social enterprises need advocates at the highest level’
Peter Holbrook, chief executive of SEUK, said: “We offer our congratulations to the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP on his promotion and hope he’ll bring the same energy and ambition to his new wider brief as he brought to the digital and creative industries. Social enterprise needs powerful advocates at the highest level of government if the sector is to fully realise its potential to create a Britain which is both fair and fit for the future.
“We wish the Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP the best of luck in her new job as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland where her tact and skills will be of huge importance. At DCMS she won many friends for beginning to re-establish relationships across the social sector and we hope that continues under the Secretary of State.”
Small Charities Coalition: ‘We want to share with him the fantastic work of small charities’
Neil March, policy and research manager at the Small Charities Coalition, said: “'We at the Small Charities Coalition are aware of Matt Hancock's past comments about small charities.
“We would welcome the opportunity to meet with him so we can share with him the fantastic work small charities are doing and discuss how we can continue to work with the Office of Civil Society to ensure they receive the appropriate support and continue to enrich the lives of people across our communities.”
NPC: 'Be radical with the charity strategy'
Dan Corry, chief executive at NPC, said : "We note that as part of his wide-ranging role he faces several challenges and controversies in different sectors over the coming months and hope he is able to give the civil society element of his brief the attention it deserves.
"He is well placed to do so thanks to the work of the undersecretary of state for sport and civil society, Tracey Crouch and the recent announcement that his department would be putting together a charity strategy. We urge him to take this forward, be radical and move with speed. Our State of the Sector research showed charity leaders are taking bold action to achieve maximum impact for their causes and the minister should use this strategy to support and enhance the vital role civil society can play in creating a positive future for Britain."
16.30: This story has been updated after Tracey Crouch confirmed that she would be staying put.