Peer bids to remove requirement for Attorney General to allow regulator to take cases to charity tribunal

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts says the matter is about the independence of the Charity Commission

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

The Conservative peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts has put forward an amendment to the Charities Bill that would remove the requirement for the Charity Commission to obtain the Attorney General’s permission to take cases to the charity tribunal.

Hodgson, who recommended the move as part of his review of the Charities Act 2006, also raised the issue during a House of Lords debate on the bill in July.

The amendment would mean that the regulator could appeal to the charity tribunal for a ruling relating to the operation of charity law provided it informed the Attorney General at least 28 days in advance. 

The issue was highlighted yesterday after Third Sector revealed that the Attorney General, Michael Ellis QC, had refused the commission’s request – first made four years ago – to allow the tribunal to consider matters relating to the governance of the Royal Albert Hall. 

The commission has been trying for years to persuade the charity to change its governance arrangements so that people who hold seats at the venue, and who can sell the tickets they receive for vastly inflated sums, do not comprise the majority of those on its trustee board. 

Hodgson told Third Sector that his amendment, which will be considered by a committee of peers over the next few weeks, was about ensuring the independence of the sector regulator.

“The regulator should be able to regulate and not have its hands tied behind its back,” he said. 

For the amendment to be accepted at this stage, at least five of the nine people that will make up the committee must vote to support it. It is not yet clear what backing the amendment could receive from committee members. 

But even if the amendment was accepted it would still have to survive passing the remaining stages in the House of Lords and then in the House of Commons before it could become law. 

The Charities Bill, which was announced in the Queen’s Speech in May, is designed to bring into force long-awaited reforms designed to reduce the amount of bureaucracy faced by charities and expand the Dormant Assets Scheme.

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