Attorney General withdraws consent for Albert Hall case to go to charity tribunal

The move comes after the charity threatened to seek a judicial review of Jeremy Wright's earlier decision

The Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall

The Attorney General has withdrawn his consent for the Charity Commission to refer the dispute about the governance of the Albert Hall to the charity tribunal.

The move comes after a threat by the hall to seek a judicial review of his decision.

Jeremy Wright QC gave his consent in January for the commission to seek guidance from the tribunal about how it should go about imposing governance changes on the hall after several years of trying unsuccessfully to secure voluntary change.

The commission has said it sees a potential conflict of interest in the fact that 19 of the 24 members on the hall’s governing body are elected from among people who own about a quarter of the 5,275 seats and can sell tickets for them at inflated prices on the internet.

It wants the constitution to be changed so that seat-holders form a minority on the ruling council, thus removing the risk it identifies that its members might put their own interests above those of the charity in their decision-making.

It is understood that the commission now plans to reformulate the questions it wants to put before the tribunal, taking account of objections raised by the hall, with a view to resubmitting its application for the Attorney General’s consent, which is required in such circumstances by charity law.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office confirmed the hall had said it might seek a judicial review of the AG’s decision to grant consent.

She said he withdrew his consent on 26 February "to prevent unnecessary litigation and consider the matter further".

She said: "The AG has written to the commission with some observations on its request for consent, which we anticipate it will consider before it makes any further request for consent.

"If the commission makes a further request, the AG will of course consider the matter again."

The Charity Commission said in a statement: "We are disappointed that the Royal Albert Hall’s legal threats against a fair and established legal process set by parliament have frustrated our attempts to try to resolve long-standing issues with the hall’s governance.

"The inherent conflict of interest in the hall’s governance must be addressed for the charity to operate in line with the expectations of a properly functioning corporate body – which is the least the public has a right to expect of a charity.

"Following the Attorney General’s decision to withdraw his consent, we are considering next steps in order to deal with these unresolved and well-known concerns."

A spokeswoman for the Albert Hall said the scope of the consent given in January was not entirely clear: "The hall therefore made representations to the Attorney General that neither the commission nor the Attorney General had acted correctly. We are pleased that the Attorney General has, in the public interest, reconsidered his decision and withdrawn his consent.

"We welcome this development and hope it provides an opportunity for us to enter into mediation with the commission (which we have proposed to it, but are still awaiting its response), not only to avoid the costs (on both sides) of a tribunal, but also to have a more productive discussion than has so far proved possible.

"It is odd that the commission should complain about what it confusingly calls 'legal threats' by the charity, when it is the commission that initiated the unnecessarily complex and expensive legal route to resolving the issue it sees, and in particular given that more collaborative and less confrontational approaches are available."

She declined to comment on whether the hall threatened to seek a judicial review of the Attorney General’s decision.

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