Lord McFall: Why charities should engage with the House of Lords

14 Jun 2023 Voices

The Lord Speaker of the House of Lords discusses why charities should contact members of the second chamber when campaigning and offers advice on how to contact them…

Lord McFall of Alcluith, Lord Speaker of the House of Lords

House of Lords

At the House of Lords, a lot of our time is taken up with scrutiny and revision of legislation, an arduous and painstaking process which is essential to the good governance of our country but can be a bit dry.

But many peers also throw themselves into campaigning for good causes, whether by working within parliament to secure changes to the law, by speaking publicly about issues of concern or by simply providing a platform for charities to make their voices heard.

As Lord Speaker, I want to ensure that charity professionals are aware of the ways in which working with members of the House of Lords can help them amplify their messages, boost their campaigns and make change happen.

Why lobby the Lords?

Earlier this year, we launched the Engage with the House of Lords programme to help put not-for-profit organisations in touch with peers who share their goals and can help achieve them.

The scheme is particularly targeted at smaller charities whose teams may not have experience of campaigning at a national level.

Support for charitable activity is embedded in the DNA of the House of Lords, and many members devote a considerable part of their efforts to it.

A number of peers were appointed to the Lords in part due to their record of charitable work – people like Stephanie Fraser, the CEO of Cerebral Palsy Scotland; homelessness campaigner John Bird; former CPRE chief executive Kate Parminter; and psychiatry professor Sheila Hollins, who founded the Beyond Words charity.

I was delighted to host the recent launch by Beyond Words of the latest in its series of books to help people who find pictures easier to understand than writing deal with life events like hospital visits or the deaths of loved ones. 

Equally, many peers have used their position on the red benches to promote charitable causes - Baroness Sugg working with campaigners against child marriage, Baroness Bull helping with work to tackle eating disorders, Baroness Finlay of Llanduff acting as a patron to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Members of the Lords are professionals and opinion leaders in the areas they work on. They actively campaign at Westminster on issues that matter to them. In a chamber less dominated than the House of Commons by political rivalry, it is often possible to secure cross-party support for worthy initiatives.

How to contact the upper house

Many peers are interested in hearing about research, developments and problems in relation to the issues they care about. Voices from outside parliament provide them with eyes and ears on the ground.  

Here are a few things to consider before contacting the House of Lords:

  • Target relevant members who have demonstrated an interest in areas related to your charity or campaign.
  • Prepare and provide clear information to brief members on your campaign, including what it is trying to achieve and what you would like members to do.
  • Time your communication carefully – consider any dates pertinent to your own campaign as well as upcoming debates and bills being discussed in the Lords that might be relevant.

Read our new guide for small charities and campaigners for further guidance.

Facilitating engagement

In my role as Lord Speaker, I do what I can to facilitate engagement between peers and charities. I am able to provide access to the beautiful and historic River Room, overlooking the River Thames in the Palace of Westminster, as a venue for receptions, report launches and speeches.

In the last few months alone, we have hosted charitable groups including the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies, the Inspire Foundation, Youthbuild, Carers Worldwide and Thomas’s Foundation.

If your charity is interested in working with peers to highlight a worthy cause or campaign for a change in the law, our team can help put you in touch with members who may be interested in hearing about your work and using your insights to inform their work at Westminster.

Lord McFall of Alcluith is Lord Speaker of the House of Lords

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