Chair for new fundraising regulator will be announced soon, Rob Wilson tells MPs

The Minister for Civil Society, appearing at a session of the Public Accounts and Constitutional Affairs Committee, also denies he acted only because of the death of Olive Cooke

Rob Wilson at the committee today
Rob Wilson at the committee today

Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, plans to announce a chair for the new fundraising regulator "imminently", he has revealed today.

Speaking in London this morning at an evidence session of the Public Accounts and Constitutional Affairs Committee as part of its inquiry into charity fundraising, Wilson said that a working group would soon be set up to help determine how the new regulator, recommended by Sir Stuart Etherington's review of fundraising self-regulation, would work.

Accused by MPs on the committee of not taking public concerns about fundraising seriously until the death of the 92-year-old poppy seller Olive Cooke in May this year, Wilson denied this and said he had been aware of the weaknesses of the existing self-regulatory structure for fundraising since he took up his post last year.

Before Cooke died, he said, he had spoken to the Conservative peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts about carrying out a review of how self-regulation was working, but Hodgson had been busy with the review he is conducting of the lobbying act.

Asked by the Labour MP Paul Flynn whether self-regulation was permitting institutions to act in their own interests rather than in those of the public, Wilson said he still believed in self-regulation.

"I am a Conservative and my instinct is not to regulate but for sectors and bodies to sort out their own problems," he said.

He said he saw the mass marketing techniques some charities used – which he defined as "flooding people with mail and phone calls" – as "dehumanising by their very nature". He said that putting more control in the hands of donors as to how they were contacted would change the culture of fundraising.

William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, was questioned by MPs alongside Wilson.

He said that the commission planned to second a member of staff to the new fundraising regulator for about six months. A spokesman for the commission said this would happen once the new chair and chief executive had been appointed and would last until the new regulator had launched, which he said would take about six months.

Asked what he thought the cost of a statutory system of regulation for fundraising would be, Shawcross said he did not have an estimate.

If the Charity Commission were given this responsibility, he said, it would need a new remit from parliament, new powers, new resources and a lot more staff and time to set up the system. He said he did not want this to happen and believed it would make the charity sector "an arm of government".

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