MP fears Charity Commission is not ensuring charities stick to their objects

Labour's Gordon Prentice finds 33 charities acted outside objects or misapplied funds in year to November

A Labour MP has questioned whether the Charity Commission is doing enough to check whether voluntary sector organisations stick to their charitable objects.

Gordon Prentice said he planned to raise his concerns with commission chair Dame Suzi Leather after a parliamentary question he tabled on the matter revealed this week that the regulator had found 33 charities either acting outside their objects or misapplying funds between November 2008 and November 2009.

"That's quite a large number," Prentice told Third Sector. "It's a hugely serious business when people under the cloak of registration with the Charity Commission solicit money for projects that lie outside their charitable objects. There ought to be serious consequences for that."

Prentice said he was particularly concerned about Islamic Help, a Birmingham-based charity running a £1m fundraising campaign to purchase a school in his Pendle constituency and turn it into the biggest boarding school in the UK, catering for 5,000 Muslim girls.

The charity's mission is "the relief of financial hardship, including hardship caused by famine, war or other disaster in any part of the world as the trustees see fit".

Prentice said the fundraising campaign and mission did not appear to be compatible and he had asked the commission to look into the matter.

Prentice sits on the Public Administration Select Committee, a cross-party group of MPs that examines the quality and standards of administration in the civil service.

The committee is due to question Leather and Andrew Hind, the commission chief executive, on Thursday. Prentice said he would raise the issue of whether the regulator was doing enough to make sure charities did not stray outside their charitable objectives.

A commission spokeswoman said it had contacted Islamic Help "to seek clarification of their intentions and offer advice and guidance".

She added: "There are a number of different ways that a charity potentially working outside of its charitable objects might be approached to regularise the position. This will vary according to the particular circumstances, activities and intentions of a charity."

Islamic Help declined to comment.

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