Peers to run short-term committee focusing on the charity sector

The House of Lords committee is expected to begin work in May and last for up to a year

The House of Lords will run a short-term committee to examine the state of the charity sector after peers accepted a proposal for its creation.

A motion from the House’s Liaison Committee to create four new ad hoc committees was passed at a vote in the House of Lords on Tuesday. This means a new charities committee will sit in the next session of parliament, which starts in May.

Ad hoc committees are set up to look at specific subjects outside the remit of the permanent House of Lords committees, and they generally run for one session of parliament, which lasts for about a year.

The Liaison Committee makes recommendations for which subjects should be covered by an ad hoc committee in each session of parliament. Its recommendations are based on submissions from peers, in this case from the Conservative peer Lord Shinkwin.

A spokesman for the Liaison Committee said the chairman and members would be appointed at the beginning of the next session of parliament, which will start on 18 May.

He said the House of Lords would the terms of reference at the same time and issue a public call for evidence.

The spokesman said that the call for evidence, which will take place in the first few weeks after the parliamentary session begins, would set out the key questions the committee will be considering.

The Liaison Committee’s third report of the 2015/16 session, published last week and on which the committee’s terms of reference will be based, said the committee could "explore how the charity sector could be strengthened through the development, dissemination and application of best practice, of mechanisms and of procedures for improving transparency and accountability".

The report listed topics that might fall under the ad hoc committee’s remit, including considering whether the regulatory role of the Charity Commission had distracted it from its more supportive work with charities, and how the regulator could promote trust in the charity sector.

The "recent controversies" in the voluntary sector could also be discussed, the report said, as well as how these problems could be avoided in the future and examples of best practice in transparency and accountability.

Other topics the committee might discuss, the report said, included the recent decline in public trust, the fiduciary duties of trustees, lessons to be learnt from devolved administrations’ experiences and the impact of recent legislation, such as the lobbying act.

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