DSC responds to new threat to Charities Bill

Howard Lake | 28 June 2004 | News

No public input to ‘public benefit’!
An unsatisfactory proposal from the Charity Commission
The Charity Commission’s proposals for implementing the ‘public benefit’ parts of the new Charities Bill, are now available. These procedures do not allow for consultation with the public but will, rather, be prepared ‘in full consultation with the professional or umbrella bodies representing these charities’.
The issue concerns charities such as some charitable hospitals and schools which, by charging high fees, raise the issue of whether they are of public rather than private benefit, as charity law requires.
The Charity Commission has proposed that it will start implementing the act by carrying out ‘scoping’ exercises that will lead to a series of regulatory reports. The reports are to be prepared ‘in full consultation with the professional or umbrella bodies representing these charities’.
The bill states that ‘public benefit’ should be decided on the basis of existing law. This requires such charities to benefit a ‘sufficient’ section of the public. In judging what is ‘sufficient’, DSC argues, it is wrong for the Commission to consult only with the institutions themselves. This is a matter of general public interest and DSC is therefore asking for a commitment that the Commission reports will also take this into account, through a broad public consultation, before its reports are finalised
This issue is separate and additional to one concerning the public schools only, in which the Commission is unexpectedly maintaining that the public benefit of independent schools is charitable anyway, even if they are exclusively for the benefit of the rich.
-Ends-
Notes to editors
Contact: Luke FitzHerbert 020 7391 4883 (lfitzherbert@dsc.org.uk)
The Charity Commission proposals are set out in a previously undisclosed briefing paper it has submitted to the Joint Committee considering the draft charities bill and which can be seen at
www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200304/jtselect/jtchar/660/660we01.htm
The DSC arguments are set out in its own evidence to the Committee, and can be seen on its own website at
www.dsc.org.uk

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