Focus: Policy and Politics - Analysis - Mathew Little's end-of-term report on the Government

It's been 400 years since the last major changes to charity law.

It feels almost as long since Labour proposed a Bill to modernise it.

Proposals were published in 2002 and a draft Bill was mulled over and then subjected to pre-legislative scrutiny before being axed by the time of the last general election. It returned in June, eight months after its first reading.

Pent-up debate was released, with Labour and Lib Dem MPs dissenting over what public benefit actually means and the Tories proposing a return to the ancient regime. Issues will be resolved when MPs return in October, and royal assent beckons.

The man who reintroduced the Charities Bill was new kid on the block Ed Miliband. The former Treasury economic adviser became minister for the third sector as charities were finally released from their strange Home Office ghetto, where they fought for attention alongside prisons and the police. Miliband heads the new office for the third sector in the Cabinet Office - he has been given a year by Tony Blair to achieve a 'step change' in the delivery of public services by charities.

Blair attended June's Three Sector Summit, which brought about a central-local government-third sector engagement board to examine the relationship between voluntary organisations and local councils.

So things are moving. But for those more interested in the long term, the summer's main event was the start of what was trailed as the largest-ever consultation with the voluntary sector. The Treasury is interested in charities' roles in social and economic regeneration. While Blair ends his premiership with voluntary sector initiatives, Gordon Brown is doing his research.

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