New wording to help define “public benefit” in the 2008 Charities Act for Northern Ireland has been proposed. It should pave the way for full implementation of the Act in 2013.
The proposed new wording is the same as that found in charity legislation in England and Wales and differs from that in Scotland. It places principal emphasis on the public benefit requirement under charitable purpose, rather than to including a prescribed charity test in legislation as found in Scottish charity legislation.
The proposed amendment will not affect the requirement in the Act that no particular purpose should be presumed to be for the public benefit.
The new amended legislation is likely to be in place this autumn. The Charity Commission will then be able to issue new draft ./guidance, which will be consulted upon, probably early in 2013. When this process is complete the Register of Charities can be established by the NI Charity Commission.
Since there will not be a prescribed public benefit test specified in legislation, it will be up to the Charity Commission to promote awareness and understanding of the public benefit requirement, as is one of its objectives. Charity trustees will then be able to refer to the Charity Commission’s public benefit ./guidance for direction.
Proposed new wording
The proposed new wording relating to public benefit is:
1.(1) For section 3 of the 2008 Act (the “public benefit” test) there shall be substituted the following section
“The public benefit requirement
3.(1) In this Act “the public benefit requirement” means the requirement in section 2(1)(b) that a purpose falling within section 2(2) must be for the public benefit if it is to be a charitable purpose.
(2) In determining whether the public benefit requirement is satisfied in relation to any purpose falling within section 2(2), it is not to be presumed that a purpose of a particular description is for the public benefit.
(3) In this Act any reference to the public benefit is a reference to the public benefit as that term is understood for the purposes of the law relating to charities in Northern Ireland.
(4) Subsection (3) is subject to subsection (2).”
(2) This section shall be deemed always to have had effect.
NICVA last week submitted its written response on the Charities Bill to the Committee for Social Development.