Page last updated at 19:23 GMT, Thursday, 14 October 2010 20:23 UK
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Cabinet members reveal 'big society' activities

Key members of Prime Minister David Cameron's Cabinet have told the BBC's Newsnight programme what they are doing to contribute to the "big society".

Newsnight asked 20 cabinet members what they are doing outside of their normal work duties to contribute to the plan.

The "big society" is Mr Cameron's idea for empowering communities and fostering a culture of volunteerism.

MPs gave a variety of answers ranging from charity patronage to hands on work, though some declined to answer.

Among those who did respond was Mr Cameron's office, which said that the prime minister helped to refurbish the village hall in Chadlington, Oxfordshire, in his constituency and has taken part in social action projects during the course of every party conference since he became leader in 2005.

Foreign Secretary William Hague's office said that along with being the patron of numerous charities Mr Hague had played an active role in saving his local pub.

Home Secretary Theresa May's office said that she was the patron of a number of charities as well as helping out with a swimming group for disabled children, at her local church and spending time as a steward for Maidenhead athletic club.

George Osborne's office said that the chancellor supports the work of several organisations and local charities within his constituency and has volunteered for them on a number of occasions.

The departmental press offices of the Cabinet members were approached by Newsnight on 28th or 29th September 2010 to answer the following question:

"What is the secretary of state doing outside his/her normal work duties to contribute to the big society?"

The exceptions to this were Mr Cameron's press office and that of the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who were approached on Thursday 14 October 2010.

For this reason Newsnight is still awaiting a response from Mr Clegg's office.

Here are the answers which Newsnight has received from each the departmental press offices so far:

  • Prime Minister David Cameron - helped to refurbish the village hall in Chadlington, Oxfordshire, in his constituency and has taken part in social action projects during the course of every party conference since he became leader in 2005.
  • Chancellor George Osborne - the chancellor supports the work of several organisations and local charities within his constituency and has volunteered for them on a number of occasions
  • Foreign Secretary William Hague - helped to save The George and Dragon pub in Hudswell, Yorkshire. Is involved in raising money for numerous charities. Activities include being patron of the Yorkshire and Humber Muscle Society (Muscular Dystrophy Campaign), Vice-President of the Yorkshire Dales Society, Joint Appeal Patron for Stokesley School, Patron of Swaledale Fell Rescue Association, President of Northallerton and The Dales Mencap Society, Patron of Hambleton & Richmondshire National Osteoporosis Society Local Support Group. The secretary of state also raised funds for charities outside his constituency, most recently the Fund for Refugees in Slovenia. Another such charity he is involved with is Codep, a London-based charity operating in Sierra Leone.
  • Home Secretary Theresa May - is a patron of a number of charities including, for example, Electric Eels (a swimming group for disabled children) and her local church and also she is a steward for maidenhead athletic club
  • Health Secretary Andrew Lansley - is involved in helping many charitable organisations and some local organisations close to his home including his local church
  • Education Secretary Michael Gove - outside of MP activity helped raise funds for Jewish Care - a social care charity, helped organise a charitable dinner for Help for Heroes, has been helping out in the crèche at St Mary Abbotts Church near his home since 2005. Is a Trustee of the John Smith Memorial Trust and Trustee of the Henry Jackson Society
  • Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude - the Minister for the Cabinet Office is a school governor and also a trustee of Eastside Young Leaders Academy. He has also volunteered abroad, including working as a volunteer teacher in Rwanda for two weeks in 2008
  • Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell - founded a landmark international social action project (Project Umubano) in Rwanda and Sierra Leone, which he attended again this year and which continues to go strong. He has been a long-standing and active vice-chairman of the Alexandra Rose Charities of which he is now a trustee. He is president or patron of a number of charities in his constituency, including the Sutton Coldfield Sea Cadets, the Norman Laud Association, the North Birmingham & Sutton Coldfield Branch of the Parkinson's Disease Society and the RNLI Sutton Coldfield Branch. Until recently he was a Trustee of the Radiation Research Trust and GAP Activity Projects, a Patron of SURF and a Council Member of SOS Sahel International UK.
  • Defence Secretary Liam Fox - works with Mencap and also volunteers at the Strawberry Line Club in his constituency. It helps people with learning disabilities find employment
  • Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman - set up two local charities her constituency, one to help drug users get clean and get in to employment, and one to help the victims of domestic violence. The domestic violence charity is currently struggling financially so the secretary of state has recently been helping with fundraising activities. The secretary of state helps to run both charities
  • Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan - The secretary of state spent the last year of Parliament taking forward a private members bill, the autism bill which is now the Autism Act. It provides support for those with autism and their families and is making a real difference to their lives. The Secretary of State worked closely with the National Autism Society in taking this forward and continues to do so
  • Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt - The Department for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport emphasised that like most MPs all of its ministers take a very active role in their communities, and chose to highlight that Mr Hunt founded Hotcourses Foundation - an Aids charity in Africa
  • Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson - In September, set up a conference on the big society... promotes the big society. Instrumental in helping set up centre for social justice in Northern Ireland
  • Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith - is the founder and patron of the Centre for Social Justice. He established it in 2004 and it is very much central to the Big Society - the CSJ highlights the work of profoundly differing and unique small voluntary organisations and charities. The secretary of state supports grassroots groups that work across the country on problems of family breakdown, drug and alcohol addiction, failed education, debt and workless and dependency
  • Business Secretary Vince Cable - office said they were sure that Mr Cable does engage with the big society as an MP, but that they could provide no concrete examples because he is too busy
  • Communities Secretary Eric Pickles - office declined to answer
  • Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne - office declined to answer
  • Transport Secretary Phil Hammond - office declined to answer
  • Lord Chancellor Kenneth Clarke - no response.




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