The Charities Bill for England and Wales is making good progress towards becoming law this year. At present, a grand committee of members of the House of Lords is examining the detail of the Bill. During this process, lords and ladies of the upper house will suggest and debate changes to the proposed legislation, before the Bill returns to the House of Lords for further consideration in a few weeks' time.
At the Institute, our main interest in the Bill lies in part three, which establishes a new licensing system for public charitable collections and sets out changes to the professional fundraising declaration.
We are working to ensure that the Bill that makes it onto the statute books is both practical and equitable for all parties involved. Although much of the detail of the public collections scheme will be set out in regulations that are yet to be published, the Institute believes the bones of a workable licensing system that is fair for all parties involved is in place within the Bill.
We are concerned with the changes that have been made to the professional fundraising declaration. The Institute believes that the important distinction to be made by fundraisers is whether a fundraiser is a volunteer, a paid employee of a charity or a subcontracted fundraiser. This is also an important distinction to make clear to the public.
This approach was endorsed in the Joint Committee's report but is not reflected in the Bill itself. We are lobbying to ensure that this aspect is changed.
It seems a long time since the Strategy Unit Report was published in 2002, but this Bill is now nearing the closing stages of becoming law - so long as a general election doesn't stop it in its tracks. The Institute is working hard to ensure that the Bill makes it onto the statute books this year.
But this won't be the end of the process. The Bill will most likely not be fully implemented until 2007. In the meantime, the Home Office will produce regulations and guidance and the Institute will respond to consultations on these developments in due course. We will consult with the sector and will be keen to hear your views.