South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck challenges Jacob Rees-Mogg on charity volunteers' rights in House of Commons

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has challenged the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, to improve the rights of charity volunteers.

Friday, 26th November 2021, 12:29 pm

The MP was contacted by one of her constituents, Peter Bennetts, who was formerly a volunteer at the North East branch of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Mr Bennetts is himself registered blind and a passionate advocate for the rights of blind and partially sighted people. He says he was asked to leave the organisation after more than a decade of service “for asking too many awkward questions”.

Ms Lewell-Buck has used his case to press for more rights for volunteers, who currently have little or no rights. The Charity Commission for England and Wales which regulates charities, does not have any power to intervene.

Emma Lewell-Buck and Jacob Rees-Mogg discussed the issue in the House of Commons.

In the Commons Ms Lewell-Buck said: “Over the last decade many charities have been left to fill the gnawing gaps left by the state.

"The Government’s neglect has led to people like my constituent, Peter Bennetts, devoting up to 100 hours per month of his own time, just to help others.

“After 11 years he was then told his services were no longer required. As a volunteer he had no right to appeal as an employee would. The Charity Commission don’t have the powers to help him.

“Can we please have an urgent debate on protections for volunteers like Peter?”

Jacob Rees-mogg replied: “Every week across this house we have honourable members coming forward and talking about the wonderful work done in their constituencies by people who support charities and we should be so proud of the charitable sector.

“The state is not there to do absolutely everything.

"There is always a role for charity and the people who get involved are worthy of praise and not of censure and I think we should be proud of what goes on, as MPs always are individually about the work in their own constituencies.

“Obviously I don’t know about the individual case that the Honourable lady raises, but I would happily take it up with the relevant department if she were to send me more details.”

Mr Bennetts said he was pleased that Mr Rees-Mogg had agreed to look into it. But Ms Lewell-Buck later said: “The Minister clearly missed my point.”

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