Charity Commission sets out position on parliamentary interest

Regulator may prioritise investigations with interest from MPs, ministers or peers

The Charity Commission has confirmed that its new risk and proportionality framework will permit it to consider the level of parliamentary interest in a charity case when deciding how urgently it should be investigated.

At an open board meeting in Liverpool last week, the commission decided that prioritising cases in which there was interest from MPs, ministers and peers was "not inconsistent with the commission's role as an independent regulator". The ruling will be implemented in the commission's risk and proportionality framework for its services to charities, likely to be published next month and come into force in November 2010.

A Charity Law Association working party had warned that doing so could affect public confidence in the commission's impartiality and objectivity. Ann Phillips, chair of the CLA working party on the issue, said: "The commission must make it clear that it will not be subject to direction or control by any minister or department."

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: "Parliamentary interest is an indicator of public interest. The commission may need to apply more resources at a senior level to manage the demands arising from this."

MEETING POINTS: REGISTRATION BOOM, SURVEY GRIEF

* In his report to the board, chief executive Andrew Hind acknowledged that the legal basis of its public benefit assessments might have to be tested in the Charity Tribunal, but said he was confident the assessments would be upheld.

* Hind said the number of registration applications had increased by 26 per cent compared with last year because many previously excepted charities had applied for registration later than the commission had hoped.

* Board members asked why a survey had found that more than half of charities rated their experience of reviews of commission decisions as "not useful". The board accepted a proposal that more detailed research should be carried out.

* The board discussed its response to Accounting Standards Board plans for a public benefit accounting standard. Some members said they were concerned about the international harmonisation of standards. The commission delayed its response.

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