The Conservative peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts will lead a wide-ranging review of the Charities Act 2006, the government has announced.
Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, said Hodgson would take charge of the review, which will consider subjects including the role of the Charity Commission, the effectiveness of the charity tribunal, the success of the Fundraising Standards Board and the licensing regime for public charitable collections.
Hodgson, president of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, led the Big Society Deregulation Taskforce, the government-commissioned review of red tape in the voluntary sector. He also spoke for the Conservatives in the Lords when the 2006 act was going through Parliament.
He will consider two main questions: the operation and effectiveness of the 2006 act and whether further changes could be made to improve the legal and regulatory framework for charities.
The terms of reference of the review say Hodgson will consider whether the legal framework for charities "is fit for purpose now and in the future" and will take into account political, economic, social and technological changes in the sector since the 2006 act was passed.
The review "should take a broad approach", the terms state, and address three issues under the two main aims:
- What is a charity and what are the roles of charities?
- What do charities need to have/be able to do in order to be able to deliver those roles?
- What should the legal framework for charities look like in order to meet those needs?
The review should make formal recommendations only on the third issue, according to the terms.
It should, say the terms, also consider 14 other areas, including thresholds for charity registration, the Calman Commission recommendations in relation to a UK-wide definition of charity, the effectiveness of organisational forms such as the charitable incorporated organisation and the range of Charity Commission decisions that can be appealed to or reviewed by the charity tribunal.
Hodgson will gather evidence from the sector and other relevant stakeholders.
In a statement, he said he wanted to discover "where the legal framework is working and where it’s letting charities and the public down so we can try and put it right".
He said: "The Charities Act 2006 changed the legal framework and it is right that the effect of these changes should now be assessed. It is also important that the law be made fit for purpose looking ahead, given the new challenges and opportunities that charities now face."
Hurd said the review was an important opportunity to get the legal framework for charities right.
"I want to see less red tape for charities and smarter safeguards so the public can be more confident in their support for charities," he said. "Lord Hodgson has a wealth of knowledge and experience in this field and will conduct a thorough review."
Hodgson will produce a report before next year’s summer recess, which will be laid before parliament. He will work unpaid on the review for one day a week.
Hodgson will supported by officials from the Office for Civil Society and an "expert charity lawyer brought in for up to one day per week and paid at significantly below commercial rates". A spokesman for the OCS said he could not yet confirm who the lawyer was.
The Charities Act 2006 says "the minister must, before the end of the period of five years beginning with the day on which this act is passed, appoint a person to review generally the operation of this act". It was passed on 8 November 2006.