Draft Protection of Charities Bill parliamentary committee issues call for evidence

The committee, chaired by Lord Hope of Craighead, will take oral and written evidence on the bill, which is designed to give tougher powers to the Charity Commission

Parliamentary committee room
Parliamentary committee room

The committee of MPs and peers that will examine the draft Protection of Charities Bill has issued its call for evidence.

The committee, which is chaired by the crossbench peer Lord Hope of Craighead and includes Nick Hurd, the former Minister for Civil Society, will take oral and written evidence on the bill, which is designed to give tougher powers to the Charity Commission such as allowing it to disqualify individuals the regulator considers to be unfit from being charity trustees.

It will hold its first oral evidence session this afternoon and will hear from witnesses including Ben Harrison, policy manager at the Office for Civil Society, Kenneth Dibble, director of legal services at the Charity Commission, and Victoria Keilthy, director, private & third sector delivery, at the National Audit Office.

The NAO is carrying out a review of the Charity Commission, after its 2013 report into the regulator found that the commission was failing to regulate charities properly.

The call for written evidence, published yesterday, asks questions about subjects including the extent of misconduct and mismanagement by trustees, and whether the new powers proposed in the bill would allow the commission to become more effective.

"The Charity Commission has been perceived by some to be struggling to act as an effective regulator," the document says. "Is this borne out by the evidence?"

"If in your view it has been an ineffective regulator, is this down to a lack of sufficient powers, reduced resources or problems with its strategic or operational approach?" it asks.

"If the problem has been one of reduced resources, from where should any additional resource be drawn?"

It also asks for views on how the current and proposed powers of the commission compare with other civil regulators, and what the case is for the regulator to be able to issue statutory warnings.

Other questions include whether the commission should have the power to prevent or restrict actions that in the regulator’s view would amount to misconduct or mismanagement, and whether the government is right to expand the criteria for the automatic disqualification of trustees.

The bill proposes that people who have certain criminal convictions, including for terrorism or money laundering, should be disqualified from being charity trustees.

The call for evidence also asks whether there are adequate safeguards in the draft bill for those who are subject to investigation and possible sanction by the regulator, and whether the role of the charity tribunal is sufficient.

Written evidence must be submitted to the committee by 16 December. A report is expected to be produced by the end of February.

 

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