Policy and Politics: Red and blue corners commit to passing Bill

Two of the three main political parties have given undertakings that they will reintroduce the Charities Bill at an early stage if they form the next government after the election.

A Labour mini-manifesto supplied to Third Sector by charities minister Fiona Mactaggart says the party would ensure that the Bill is passed.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have told the NCVO they want to make the Bill part of their legislative programme "as soon as possible".

The Liberal Democrats have given no firm commitment, but Lord Phillips, one of the party's peers, is a strong supporter of the Bill and has made much of the running in some of the debates on the subject.

The pledges came as government business managers made no provision in this week's parliamentary time-table for the report stage and third reading of the Charities Bill in the House of Lords, making it almost impossible for it to become law before the election.

Home Office minister Baroness Scotland has, however, tabled amendments on religion and the Charity Commission, giving force to concessions made during the committee stage in the upper house.

One amendment defines religion as including those that involve a belief in "more than one god" and those that do not "involve belief in a god".

The concession followed warnings that the earlier definition would be in breach of human rights law.

The second amendment says the commission must pay regard to the principle that its regulation should be "proportionate, accountable, consistent, transparent and targeted only at cases in which action is needed".

This was prompted by earlier complaints that the commission dealt with both small and large charities under a single regime, which meant it sometimes took a hammer to crack a nut.

- See general election feature, page 26.

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