The second reading of the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill in the House of Commons is scheduled for 3 December.  BWB, ACEVO, BOND, DSC and CFG have briefed MPs outlining a number of serious concerns about some of the new powers to be given to the Charity Commission, and suggesting ten amendments to the Bill.  The collective view is that some of the powers lack sufficient safeguards andthreaten the independence of charities, and should therefore be amended or deleted.  The proposed amendments are:

1. Charity Commission power to give warnings to a charity

  • It should be made absolutely clear that this power cannot be used to force trustees to fetter the future exercise of their fiduciary powers. As currently drafted, a charity could be given 24 hours’ notice to take certain action  - for example, to cancel an event, stop campaigning, fundraising or funding an organisation and this action could be long term or continuing as there is no time limit or review period.
  • Failure to comply with a statutory warning (particularly as there is no independent right of appeal) should not automatically be evidence of misconduct or mismanagement by a charity.  The Commission already has a range of adequate tools in its armoury if there is evidence of misconduct or mismanagement. 
  • Trustees should be given adequate notice of the commission’s intention to issue a statutory warning.  We are suggesting 28 days. If it is more urgent, then other protective remedial powers exist.
  • There should be a right to appeal a warning to the Charity Tribunal.  The current option - judicial review - is an expensive, protracted route to challenging the commission’s decisions.

2. Automatic disqualification from being a trustee

  • Inclusion on the sex offenders register should not automatically disqualify a person from acting as trustee of a charity.   It works against a desire to rehabilitate offenders, and it is illogical that sexual offenders should be ‘unfit to be in a position of trust’, whereas those found guilty of other serious offences ( such as murder or arson) would not be automatically disqualified. Sex offenders are subject to a strict vetting and barring regime and could not volunteer with children, young people or vulnerable adults.

3. Power for the Charity Commission to disqualify trustees

The commission should not be able to disqualify a person merely because it considers that person is unfit, and their general conduct ( whether past or present and whether or not related to a charity) might damage public interest in charities. This power is far too broad and is unnecessary in the light of the other proposals in the Bill relating to the commission’s power to disqualify trustees.

If you are in agreement, please circulate the briefing to your MP, local contacts and anyone else who can assist. The second reading is scheduled for 3rd Dec.

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Rosamund McCarthy


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Posted on 02/12/2015 in BWB News

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