The Cabinet Office has rejected proposals to introduce a statutory definition for public benefit in its response to reports from the Public Administration Select Committee and Lord Hodgson.
The Cabinet Office was responding to both The Role of the Charity Commission and "Public Benefit": Post-legislative Scrutiny of the Charities Act 2006, published earlier this year by PASC, and Lord Hodgson’s statutory review of the Charities Act 2006: Trusted and Independent: Giving Charity Back to Charities.
"The government agrees with Lord Hodgson’s recommendation not to pursue a statutory definition of public benefit at this time, although the possibility of change should not be completely ruled out," the response says.
It adds that the government does not support Hodgson’s proposal to raise the £5,000 annual income threshold for registration with the commission. It gives in-principle backing to his idea that charities below the threshold should have the right to register voluntarily and accepted the possibility of "passporting" registration for charities that are registered with regulators in more than one UK jurisdiction.
The government’s response says it will do further work on a process that would allow charities to file accounts jointly with Companies House and the Charity Commission.
It says the government does not support charges for registration with the commission, but backs the introduction of "a proportionate and flexible system of fines for late returns to the Charity Commission".
The response also rejects the idea of scrapping national exemption orders, which allow charities to collect house-to-house without needing separate licences. And it says that it will carry out a formal review of the self-regulation of fundraising in 2017.
The government backs a recommendation that rules on political campaigning by charities should not be tightened, but gives in-principle support to a PASC recommendation that "the Charity Commission requires charities to declare in their annual returns how much of their spending has gone on political and communications work".
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