Concerns over new charity regulator powers and disqualification

The current charities legislation going through Parliament is due for its first proper debate in the House of Commons this week (on 3rd December).

The Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill includes provisions to increase the powers of the Charity Commission (England and Wales), over such things as disqualification of trustees, powers of directions to charities and issuing official warnings. There are also measures on social investment and fundraising.

VoluntaryNews has covered earlier progress through House of Lords, for instance this item from July, and will continue to provide updates on key discussions and amendments. Amendments to provide reserve powers to force charities to obey and fund a new fundraising regulator are expected to be made shortly.

Concerns on trustee disqualification

The proposals around charity trustee disqualification have drawn concern from bodies working with offenders, amongst others.

Umbrella body Clinks said:

“Many voluntary sector organisations have benefited from offering opportunities to former offenders, either as trustees or in senior management positions. Some are even set up initially as self-help groups by service users themselves. The extension of the disqualification framework as proposed by the charities bill could represent a direct threat to the core mission of our sector, its future sustainability, diversity and vibrancy”

(From Clinks Light Lunch)

Clinks is supporting the position of the charity Unlock, which has prepared a briefing for MPs. Also see Third Sector news item.

Extending Charity Commission powers

The Charity Law Association has proposed eight amendments to the Charities Bill to reduce the scope of proposed powers for the Charity Commission, especially the power to issue official warnings.

The CLA believes that the scope of the proposed power to give warnings is far too wide, and gives the Commission too much authority. The Charity Finance Group and NCVO are also understood to have also expressed concerns about the scope of the power. As reported by Civil Society News.

Update

The briefing letter for MPs (pdf, 404KB) from Bates Wells Braithwaite solicitors, produced with various sector bodies, also covers these issues. Do read and circulate this further, particularly to anyone who might be able to take action.

The Charity Commission has its own parliamentary briefing (published 2nd December), giving its backing for the proposed legislation.

See ‘Call for evidence follows debate on charity regulation‘ for what happened at the debate on 3rd December, and next steps.