Policy and Politics: Question Time - Lord Hodgson Conservative voluntary sector spokesman

Has the Charities Bill changed in the Lords' Grand Committee?

We've persuaded the Government to make a lot of changes, and it will be introducing amendments at report stage to put them into effect.

There has been progress on increasing the independence of the Charity Commission, and we have had an undertaking that the commission will be required to act proportionately, so we think things have been going in the right direction.

What about the definition of public benefit and a suitor's fund?

We think it's right to keep any definition of public benefit out of the Bill, so our view is that the Government is in the right ballpark on this.

We haven't been supporting a suitor's fund for people to take cases to the Charity Tribunal because that would mean extra public spending - not much, admittedly, but each bit mounts up.

Has the Bill been adequately scrutinised?

We've had eight days in the committee and dealt with 188 amendments.

No charity should feel it hasn't had a chance to make its views known, and we now have a much better Bill - a lot of important concerns raised by the sector have been aired and a lot of progress has been made.

Do you think it will become law before the election?

We've been meeting ministers to see how the land lies, and as I speak there's everything to play for.

It's all down to what happens in the wash-up period and where the Bill actually sits in the priorities of the Government. These things will all be sorted out at a higher level, and the Charities Bill is one piece of the jigsaw.

If it doesn't get through, what do you think will happen?

We hope it will be reintroduced in the new Parliament. I would have to take advice on this, but I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be introduced containing the amendments that have been put into it this first time around.

- See Editorial, page 22.

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