05th August 2014
Government announces draft Protection of Charities Bill
Amongst the legislation announced in the Queen’s speech in June, one having the potential to affect charities was the Protection of Charities Bill.
According to the Government, the primary aim of the Bill is to create a fairer society by better protecting charities in England and Wales from abuse and equipping the Charity Commission to tackle abuse more effectively and efficiently; certainly a laudable aim.
When finally released the Bill will be influenced by earlier Government consultations, which were launched following the National Audit Office’s report on the Charity Commission published last year. The proposals mooted in the consultation documents give some idea as to the specific measures designed to achieve the Government’s objectives. Some of the proposals were:-
Extending the list of criteria that trigger automatic disqualification from trusteeship beyond those currently listed in the Charities Act 2011, to include unspent convictions for offences such as money laundering, bribery and corruption, terrorism related offences, perjury or the incitement of racial or religious hatred;
- Giving the Charity Commission the ability to remove a charity trustee without having instituted a formal statutory inquiry into a charity, where the Charity Commission is satisfied that there is or has been misconduct or mismanagement and there is a need to protect the charity’s property or secure its proper application;
- Allowing the Commission to direct specific action where there is misconduct / mismanagement or risk to property so it can be exercised without opening an inquiry where clear evidence exists;
- Giving the Commission a new power to issue an official warning for non-compliance with the provisions of the Charities Act or fiduciary duties;
- A new power for the Commission to wind up a charity where necessary.
It is not thought the Bill will be introduced in this parliamentary session. A number of influential charities have already provided their thoughts on the Bill’s potential, with some suggesting that charities will still require further guidance, and many rightly emphasising that with these increased powers, the Charity Commission will require increased resources. For now, it is a question of 'watch this space'.