Legal Diary: A difference of opinion on the regulator's epistles

Anyone attending House of Lords committee meetings can look forward to some unexpected commentary

A small pointer to the Charity Commission's regulatory priorities emerged when the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities was taking evidence on 18 October from Aamer Naeem of the Muslim charity Penny Appeal and Paul Hackwood of the Church Urban Fund. Asked if his charity faced regulatory issues because of its religious ethos, Hackwood said: "No. I mean, we sometimes have a difficulty getting the Charity Commission to answer our letters." At which point Naeem quipped: "Really? We have difficulty stopping the Charity Commission sending us letters."

Anyone watching the recording of the same committee's session the previous week were treated to an unexpected running commentary. To aid the recording, both witnesses and committee members are provided with microphones, and it would seem these remain on throughout the sessions.

David Cutler of the Baring Foundation told the committee: "It doesn't feel as if the attitude (of government) is one that wants to see civil society thrive and flourish ... It's been quite threatening."

On the recording, an unseen member of the committee can be heard muttering emphatically "That's right! That's right!"

The mystery lord appears again a few minutes later as Matthew Taylor of the RSA, begins to say "some government regulation has been ..."

"... Too tight," the voice interjects in an undertone.

Legal Diary has been unable to identify the sector's furtive cheerleader. Excluding those who are female or have Scottish accents (two attributes not shared by the mystery voice), there are five contenders. But we'll be listening eagerly to the recording of the next committee meeting in November.

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