Keep it legal: Welsh Assembly Government

Now that the Government of Wales Act 2006 is in force, there is greater scope for charities based in Wales to contribute expertise and to argue for legislation that promotes third sector involvement in key issues, such as the delivery of public services and social projects.

The act has introduced new procedures that allow the National Assembly for Wales to produce secondary legislation for the country without having to wait for parliamentary time at Westminster. The National Assembly has the power to seek orders from Westminster that allow it to pass legislative instruments called 'measures' in 20 fields, including the environment, health, education and training, housing and social welfare.

The National Assembly will scrutinise draft measures relating to issues within its legislative competence. Once approved, it will pass them to Westminster, where they will be enacted by the monarch without the need for further parliamentary approval. Those draft measures will generally have been produced by the Welsh Assembly Government with input from external groups, whether through responses to consultation or more direct lobbying. Consultation papers are frequently sent to parties known to be interested in the issue under consideration. Alternatively, they can be obtained from the Welsh Assembly Government website. The consultation process is essentially the same as in England. Similarly, direct lobbying is often facilitated by political consultancies, professional lobbyists or law firms on the same basis as in Westminster.

The Welsh Assembly Government has already made clear its intention to establish Wales as a leader in terms of environmental performance, education and the delivery of public services. Consequently, there will be ample opportunity for the third sector to be involved in that process.

Inevitably, though, that involvement must be carefully managed. Although non-charitable voluntary organisations can generally support any cause they wish, registered charities must follow Charity Commission guidelines on campaigning and political activities. Such activities must further a charity's purposes and must be for public benefit. Charities must ensure that provisions are in place for commissioning, control and evaluation, and for justifying any expenditure on such activities.

- Jane Kenyon is a solicitor at Clarks Legal LLP 

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