Charity tribunal considers Charity Commission's refusal to remove Royal Albert Hall from register

The tribunal has decided that in the absence of clear legal precedent the case should be stayed pending the outcome of an unrelated case

Charity tribunal
Charity tribunal
  • This story was clarified on 26 June: see final paragraph

The charity tribunal is considering whether the Charity Commission was right to reject an application from a member of the Royal Albert Hall to have the historic music venue removed from the register of charities.

When the hall was opened in London in 1871, it was funded by members paying for 999-year leases of about 1,200 seats. These are now held by about 300 people and businesses.

Documents on the tribunal website show that a member called Richard Cavendish Lyttelton applied to the commission last year to have the Corporation of the Hall of Arts and Sciences, the charity that oversees the hall, removed from the register of charities. The commission rejected this on 1 December and Lyttelton subsequently appealed this decision at the First-tier Tribunal (Charity), the documents show. It is not clear why Lyttelton made the application.

The commission did not accept that Lyttelton had legal standing to bring such an appeal, says the document, published in February.

Alison McKenna, principal judge of the tribunal, decided there was no sufficiently clear legal precedent on the matter, and said the case should be stayed pending the outcome of an unrelated case in the upper tribunal, which had been brought after a previous refusal by McKenna to give the legal standing in the charity tribunal. McKenna said in a tribunal note in February: "It seems to me only fair to give the appellant the opportunity to await the decision of the upper tribunal on the point."

The case was therefore stayed until 4 June, according to a tribunal document published later in February. Another document signed by McKenna last week and published online this week shows that it has been stayed again until 2 July.

This document says the tribunal will not rule on the issue of Lyttelton’s standing until after 2 July, and the commission is not required to file a response to his appeal until directed by the tribunal.

A spokesman for the Royal Albert Hall said: "We are pleased the Charity Commission has confirmed that the hall is, and always has been, a charity. Having applied to challenge the hall’s charitable status, we understand that Mr Lyttelton is now appealing the Charity Commission’s decision and this is a matter for the charity tribunal."

A spokeswoman for the commission said: "We consider that the corporation is, and has always been, established for charitable purposes for the public benefit. Consequently, it remains registered with the commission. However, we remain in active dialogue with the charity about its governance arrangements."

In 2012, the hall became the subject of commission scrutiny after the regulator warned that members selling tickets for their seats at often highly inflated prices could constitute unacceptable private benefit.

  • Clarification: Lyttelton’s contention following specialist legal advice is that the trustees and members of the hall have over time made amendments to its constitution which they do not have the legal authority to make. Putting this right would not affect the right of members to sell their tickets, but would affect the numbers of tickets they could sell. His main concern is that the hall should operate lawfully.

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