The Government expects to publish a draft version of the Charities Bill in mid-May, Baroness Amos has confirmed.
Speaking at the House of Lords last week, Amos also announced that a joint committee with representatives from both Houses of Parliament will be set up as soon as possible to consider the bill.
The committee will report back to Parliament with its comments and suggestions on the bill by 10 September.
However, the process may become derailed by the general election.
"The critical thing now is the timing of the next election," said NCVO spokesman James Georgalakis. "We would hope to have a charities act during 2005, but our concern is that if an early election is called, the progress of the bill will be interrupted and we may miss out. It is fair to say that the campaign for a charities bill has now evolved into a campaign for a charities act."