Government unveils Protection of Charities Bill in the Queen's Speech

The draft legislation would give the Charity Commission tougher powers to prevent the abuse of charities

Queen's Speech

The government has announced draft legislation designed to give the Charity Commission tougher powers to prevent the abuse of charities.

The Protection of Charities Bill, announced as part of the Queen’s Speech today, would "create a fairer society by better protecting charities in England and Wales from abuse and equipping the Charity Commission to tackle abuse more effectively and efficiently", according to a statement released by the Cabinet Office.

The statement said that the main purposes of the legislation would be to "protect charities from abuse by people who present a known risk" and to "make it easier for the commission to take robust action against individuals and charities in cases of abuse".

The legislation would also support public trust and confidence in the effective regulation of charities, it said.  

The statement did not set out the precise measures that would be introduced because the government was still considering the responses to its consultation on the regulator’s powers.

It said that the government would legislate on the measures "as soon as parliamentary time allows".

The Charity Commission said it was disappointed because it did not expect the legislation would be introduced in this parliamentary session.

The Cabinet Office consultation, which began in December, discussed giving the regulator tougher powers to tackle serious abuse and how the range of criminal offences that disqualify people from being a charity trustee could be extended. 

The consultation, which closed in February, contained proposals that included giving the commission a new power to close down a charity and giving it a statutory warning power.

Another proposal would give the regulator a new discretionary power to disqualify unfit persons from acting as charity trustees.

The Charity Commission has been calling for new powers to allow it to disqualify people such as convicted terrorists from acting as charity trustees. Voluntary sector bodies, however, were divided over the proposal.

In the speech, the Queen said that the government would also "reduce the use of plastic carrier bags to help protect the environment".

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said this was expected to involve the introduction of a fee on carrier bags in shops, which retailers would be encouraged to donate to charities on a voluntary basis.

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