Tuesday, 15 December 2015
The Protection of Charities
Today marks the first sitting of the Public Bill Committee for the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill. This is our chance to inform the discussion around the bill. And a chance to stop some hugely damaging changes to charity regulation.
This bill is far from perfect. ACEVO have submitted evidence to the committee reflecting this. And we are not the only ones. Across the sector, organisations are speaking out. It is vital that we stop these damaging changes before they take hold.
There are two clauses in the bill I particularly worry about. The first is the power to issue warnings. This is so vague as to be almost indecipherable. It would be left to the Charity Commission to decide where a warning was due. There would then be no right of appeal. Combine this with the public nature of these warnings, and then charities may see themselves dragged through the mud, without ever putting their side of the story across.
Second is the power to dismiss trustees. It is unclear on what basis, or even by whom, these decisions will be made. This new power, unrestricted, could see the Charity Commission become a law unto itself. As we saw with the CAGE case recently, this type of over-reaching is not entirely alien to them.
As it stands, this Bill would give the Charity Commission unprecedented new powers, which would allow them to pursue agendas as they feel is appropriate. This particularly concerns me in light of William Shawcross’ near fanatical pursuit of the Muslim charity sector.
For all these reasons, it is crucial that this Bill gets amended by the committee. As such, I am encouraged to see many of the MPs sitting on it are friends of the sector. What we must hope now is that they listen to the evidence being submitted by the sector, and produce a Bill which works for, not against, charities.