Labour peer set to chair committee to examine challenges for the sector

Baroness Pitkeathley among the names proposed for the ad hoc Lords committee

Baroness Pitkeathley
Baroness Pitkeathley

The Labour peer Baroness Pitkeathley is expected to chair the proposed short-term committee of peers that will investigate the challenges facing the charity sector.

The creation of the ad hoc select committee is expected to be approved by the Lords on Monday, and the list of proposed members is expected to be approved on Wednesday.

The list of proposed members includes Pitkeathley’s Labour colleagues Lord Bichard, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, Baroness Anita Gale and Lord Rooker, and the Conservative peers Lord Chadlington, Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, Lord Lupton and Baroness Stedman-Scott.

The Liberal Democrats Baroness Barker and Baroness Scott of Needham Market, and the crossbench peer Lord Harries of Pentregarth also feature on the list.

Ad hoc committees are set up to look at specific subjects outside the remit of the permanent House of Lords committees, and they generally run for one session of parliament.

The new charity committee is expected to examine issues relating to sustaining the charity sector and the challenges of governance, make recommendations and report back to parliament by 31 March.

The vote to approve the committee and its membership is a likely to be a formality, according to Chris Walker, senior external relations officer at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

"It does look like it’s quite a good committee with lots of experience there, both in the Lords and with charities," he said.

"Baroness Pitkeathley is very experienced, well known and active in the charity sector, but there is a lot of experience there throughout the rest of the committee, and I would expect them to take a really wide-ranging approach to their enquiries and do a very thorough job."

Pitkeathley, who was awarded the Luke FitzHerbert lifetime achievement award by Third Sector in 2013, is a co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering, chaired the Third Sector Advisory Group under the Labour government and was chair of the New Opportunities Fund, which distributed lottery funds.

Walker said it was likely the committee would focus strongly on governance and would want to speak to a range of sector bodies as well as the Charity Commission.

"It should be quite an interesting inquiry and they should come back with some useful recommendations that will strengthen the sector," he said.

"Obviously it is also an opportunity to raise a number of issues that are affecting the sector."

He said he expected the committee would use initial evidence sessions in June or July to develop terms of reference and would hold more in-depth hearings in the autumn.

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