Only 50 peers will be allowed to speak in today's House of Lords virtual debate on the charity sector, and most participants will be limited to a two-minute speaking slot, prompting concerns that the government will not be fully held to account on its approach to the sector.
Some 67 peers originally expressed an interest in speaking.
The debate begins at 1pm and is time-limited to three hours. It was called by Lord Addington to consider the fundraising and organisational challenges faced by charities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Addington has been allocated 15 minutes. Baroness Barker from the Liberal Democrats and Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town from Labour have each been allocated 10 minutes.
Baroness Barran, Conservative peer and minister for civil society, will have 20 minutes to respond.
Limits ability to hold the government to account
Barker has said she is concerned that the format will make it harder to hold the government to account.
She said: “Peers from all benches were planning to speak but now cannot. I think this is outrageous, especially at a time of national emergency, but it seems that the less scrutiny they [the government] get, the happier they are. The limit on time went through in the chamber yesterday without notice and without anyone on the opposition benches.”
Her concerns were echoed by the Directory of Social Change (DSC), which has been lobbying peers as part of the #NeverMoreNeeded campaign by sector bodies to raise awareness of the challenges facing charities.
Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of DSC, said: “The consequence of government’s laissez-faire approach to charities is that vital services fail. Abused children fall under the radar; beaten women have nowhere to go; suicidal teenagers go unsupported; the lonely elderly get no support.
“Being scrutinised fairly and forensically by our parliamentary system has never been more vital. This smacks of muzzling the Lords so that robust challenge cannot happen. Firstly we silence the press – then we silence the peers...what next?”