Bill amended after pensioner wrote to Home Office

A pensioner from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire has changed the course of charity legislation by writing to the Home Office pointing out an anomaly in the existing law.

Alan Mears told the Home Office civil servant who manages the Charities Bill that the public should have a legal right to a copy of any charity's latest annual report.

The public is already empowered to ask for a charity's accounts, and last Tuesday the Government introduced an amendment at the Bill's committee stage in the House of Lords extending the right.

"I congratulate Mr Mears on pointing this out to us," said Government spokesman Lord Bassam. "These amendments correct the anomaly. Three cheers for Mr Mears."

Mears told Third Sector he had discovered there was no right to annual reports when he was assembling information to help him decide which criminal justice charity to support.

"The problem is that there are all these charities, but you don't know whether they're any good," he said. " I ended up supporting the Howard League, because it shakes the Government up a bit."

Lord Bassam welcomed an amendment from Lord Best (Third Sector, 13 July) that would allow people aged under 18 to be charity trustees. He said the legal issues were complex and wide-ranging but there was "real value in the proposal".

- See Editorial, page 22.

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