Hodgson questions when the Attorney General will respond to Albert Hall row

The Conservative peer tables a question in the House of Lords regarding the dispute between the charity and the regulator

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abotts
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abotts

The long-running dispute over the governance of the Royal Albert Hall is to be raised in the House of Lords by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, who conducted the review of the Charities Act 2006 and the more recent review of the lobbying act.

The Conservative peer has tabled a question asking the government when the Attorney General is expected to respond to a request made more than three months ago by the Charity Commission for consent to refer legal aspects of the case to the charity tribunal for clarification.

He is also planning to raise the question of the hall’s governance during the debate that will be held in the House of Lords early next year about the government’s response, published this week, to the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities, which was chaired by the Labour peer Baroness Pitkeathley. 

"The Albert Hall is an issue I’ve been taking an interest in for some time, and I noticed it had been referred to the Attorney General," said Hodgson. "What I’m concerned about is outliers – unusual cases that can damage the reputation of the sector as a whole.

"This case has rumbled on and on, and I think we need clarity because without it the smell hangs in the air. It seems to me that between September and December there has been plenty of time to be getting on with this.

"The response to Baroness Pitkeathley’s report on the sector is due to be debated soon and, when it comes up, I will raise the question of the hall again."

The commission has been engaged with the hall for nine years and is trying to persuade it to change its constitution so that its trustee body no longer has a majority of people who own seats in the hall.

Of the 5,272 seats in the hall, 1,276 have been privately owned ever since they were sold to investors for £1 in 1876 to help finance the building. The seat-holders elect 19 of the 24-strong council from among their number.

Some seat-holders sell their tickets for events at the hall on the internet. Tickets for the Last Night of the Proms this year were being sold on the internet for £1,300, more than 10 times their face value. Current council members and parties related to them own 143 seats.

The commission has told the hall it thinks there is potential for seat-holders to prefer their own interests to those of the charity. But it has limited powers to enforce changes in charities, such as the hall, that have constitutions laid out in acts of parliament.

In September the commission said: "We have taken the unprecedented step of seeking the consent of the Attorney General to refer a number of questions to the charity tribunal relating to the charity and the exercise of the commission’s regulatory powers.

"These will include, but are not limited to, the nature of the charity’s constitution, the commission’s ability to issue a scheme in order to amend the constitution and the proposed content of such a scheme."

Neither the commission nor the Albert Hall wanted to comment this week.

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