Joint Committee on the Draft Charities Bill

Press Notice

No. 1 of Session 2003-04, 13 May 2004

Embargo: For immediate release

Further information: Francene Graham [email protected]  0207 219 8387

JOINT  COMMITTEE  ON  DRAFT  CHARITIES  BILL  ESTABLISHED

Alan Milburn MP has been chosen as chairman of the new Joint Committee on the draft Charities Bill.  The former Health Secretary was elected at the Joint Committee’s first meeting on Wednesday 12 May.

The Joint Committee comprises six MPs and six peers. It will take oral and written evidence on the draft Charities Bill - which is expected to be published at the end of May - and make its recommendations in a report by 30 September 2004.

The Committee expects to start taking oral evidence in early June. The programme of such evidence sessions will be announced soon. It will be available, together with the written and oral evidence received on the website:

www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/jcdchb.cfm

Alan Milburn said:

“Charities make a difference to communities in every part of Britain.  They are a cornerstone of a modern civil society but current charity law is ancient and chaotic.  That is why this draft Bill is so important.  It can help promote public confidence in charities and encourage more giving and volunteering.  A modern legal framework can help realise the potential that some charities have to play an even bigger role in regenerating communities and providing services. 

“Equally, we are very conscious of the sheer diversity of the charitable and voluntary sector and the large number of small charities which may be affected by this Bill.  It will be important to get the balance right between flexibility and accountability when it comes to the regulation of charities.

“We are working to a tight timetable - not of our own choosing - and will have to start taking oral evidence soon after the draft Bill is published. We recognise this leaves little time for people to give us their views, but hope that many of the issues are already well known. A clear and concise paper will carry as much weight with us as the oral evidence we hear.  The Joint Committee is especially keen to ensure that the views of small charities are taken into account.”

Notes to Editors

1 The other Members of the Committee are as follows:

Lord Best (Crossbench); Lord Campbell-Savours (Labour); Earl of Caithness (Conservative); Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Labour); Lord Phillips of Sudbury (LibDem); Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover (Con); Mr Alan Campbell MP (Lab, Tynemouth); Rt Hon George Foulkes MP (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley); Ms Sally Keeble MP (Lab, Northampton North); Mr Andrew Mitchell MP (Con, Sutton Coldfield); Bob Russell MP (LibDem, Colchester).

  2 Scope of the Committee's inquiry

The Joint Committee is very aware of the wide spectrum of charity activity, the number of small organisations and the distinction between fund-raising and grant-giving charities. It expects to concentrate its inquiry on the following themes:

1. Does the draft Bill strike the right balance between flexibility and accountability? How can the danger of over-regulation be avoided? How will this affect smaller voluntary-run charities?

2. Will the Bill improve public confidence in charities?  Will it encourage more giving and volunteering?

3. Are the 12 new charitable purposes the draft Bill proposes for a charity satisfactory -- should there be additions or deletions? Is the phrase ‘public benefit’ best left undefined in the Bill?  Do fee-paying schools which are charities demonstrate adequate public benefit arising from their activities?

4. Are there aspects of the draft Bill which would permit the charity and voluntary sector to play a greater role in the delivery of public services if they wished to do so?

5. What are the likely benefits and costs of the draft Bill? What level of funding will be necessary for the Charity Commission to carry out its additional tasks effectively?

6. Is it right that the draft Bill does not include the recommendation in the Strategy Unit consultation paper, Private Action, Public Benefit, that charities should be allowed to trade as part of their normal activities without the need to set up a trading company?

7. Are the proposals to regulate fund-raising workable?

8. Are the specific proposals in the draft Bill (such as the new corporate legal form, the Charitable Incorporated Organisation) adequate, workable and beneficial?

The Joint Committee also intends to take into account developments in similar legislation in Scotland and progress on the provisions for Community Interest Companies in the Companies (Audit, Investigations and Community Enterprise) Bill currently before the House of Lords.

3 Further information about the inquiry can be found in the attached Call for Evidence.

To follow the inquiry: www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/jcdchb.cfm. When it is published the text of the draft Bill should be accessible through this site.  All oral evidence session will be webcast and available on : www.parliamentlive.tv.

CALL FOR EVIDENCE

The Joint Committee invites interested organisations and individuals to submit written evidence as part of its inquiry into the Draft Charities Bill. The Committee is working to a very tight timetable set by the Government. Oral evidence has to be taken in June and the first half of July.  If written evidence is going to influence those sessions, therefore, it needs to be sent in as soon as possible. We hope larger charities will submit evidence no later than Monday 21 June and that smaller charities will do so by Monday 28 June. Written evidence received up to 15 July will still be taken into account.  The earlier submissions are made the greater the chance that the Committee will be able to consider them in detail.  

The draft Bill is expected to be published at the end of May. The broad features of the draft Bill have been set out in the Home Office response to consultation Charities and Not-for-Profits (July 2003) at

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/docs2/charitiesnotforprofits.pdf

This provides the opportunity for interested parties to give preliminary consideration and do preparatory work on their submissions before publication of the draft Bill later in May.

Scope of the Committee's inquiry

The Joint Committee is very aware of the wide spectrum of charity activity, the number of small organisations and the distinction between fund-raising and grant-giving charities. It expects to concentrate its inquiry on the following themes:

1. Does the draft Bill strike the right balance between flexibility and accountability? How can the danger of over-regulation be avoided?

2. Will the Bill improve public confidence in charities?  Will it encourage more giving and volunteering?

3. Are the 12 new charitable purposes the draft Bill proposes for a charity satisfactory -- should there be additions or deletions? Is the phrase ‘public benefit’ best left undefined in the Bill?  Do fee-paying schools which are charities demonstrate adequate public benefit arising from their activities?

4. Are there aspects of the draft Bill which would permit the charity and voluntary sector to play a greater role in the delivery of public services if they wished to do so?

5. What are the likely benefits and costs of the draft Bill? What level of funding will be necessary for the Charity Commission to carry out its additional tasks effectively?

6. Is it right that the draft Bill does not include the recommendation in the Strategy Unit consultation paper, Private Action, Public Benefit, that charities should  be allowed to trade as part of their normal activities without the need to set up a trading company?

7. Are the proposals to regulate fund-raising workable?

8. Are the specific proposals in the draft Bill (such as the new corporate legal form, the Charitable Incorporated Organisation)  adequate, workable and beneficial?

The Joint Committee also intends to take into account developments in similar legislation in Scotland and progress on the provisions for Community Interest Companies in the Companies (Audit, Investigations and Community Enterprise) Bill currently before the House of Lords.

Written evidence

Given the limited time available for the submission of evidence and for the completion of the Committee's work, written evidence should be short, concentrate on the major issues arising from the draft Bill and contain a brief introduction to the persons or organisations submitting it. Submissions should take the form of a memorandum and should have numbered paragraphs. An indicative length would be 1,000-1,200 words - memoranda which exceed five pages should be accompanied by a one-page summary. Memoranda may be accompanied by background material (perhaps already published elsewhere) which would not be reprinted by the Joint Committee.

We wish to receive written evidence, if possible in MS Word or rich text format, by e-mail to [email protected] A single hard copy (single-sided, unbound) should also be sent to : Francene Graham, Committee Assistant to the Joint Committee on the Draft Charities Bill

Scrutiny Unit,  Room G10,  7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA  (fax: 0207 219 8381)

Once written evidence has been submitted it becomes the property of the Committee. Those who have submitted written evidence to the Joint Committee are welcome to publish their evidence themselves (for example, by placing it on their own website), provided that it is not published until after the Joint Committee has acknowledged receipt of the evidence and that it is made clear that the document was prepared as evidence to the Joint Committee. Written submissions from those giving oral evidence will be available at the relevant hearing. Written evidence from others will either be published by the Committee with its final Report or placed in the public domain when that Report is published. Individuals and organisations considering submitting information to the Committee that they would wish the Committee to treat as confidential should consult the Clerks in advance, initially by sending an e-mail to the address given above.

Further notices will be issued shortly, indicating how the Committee will proceed.

To follow the inquiry, see: www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/jcdchb.cfm

Webcasts of all evidence sessions are available within 24 hours at www.parliamentlive.tv.

If you wish to be added to the mailing list for future notices, please contact: Francene Graham, Committee Assistant to the Joint Committee on the Draft Charities Bill

Scrutiny Unit,  Room G10,  7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA 

Email: [email protected]  Tel: 020 7219 8387 Fax: 020 7219 8381.