By Ken Maggs, Moore Thompson
The charity sector has been asked for its views on provisions in the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill as it reaches committee stage in the House of Commons.
MPs last week passed a second reading of the proposed changes and have passed it to committee stage in the House of Commons.
The parliamentary website urges those with “relevant expertise and experience or a special interest” in the bill to submit their response.
The bill would give extra powers to the Charity Commission, including a controversial power to give official warnings to charities.
Shadow minister Anna Turley told Parliament this would risk threatening the independence of charities.
She said the main fear was that the powers would be used for issues of “relatively low concern”.
“There are no objections in principle to giving the Charity Commission the power to give warnings to a charity, but the current drafting raises some concerns within the sector,” she said.
Another provision would be enabling the Charity Commission to automatically disqualify from trusteeship those with convictions for sexual offences, money laundering or terrorism offences. It would also give charities the ability to make social investments.
Turley said: “We think it is absolutely right that charities have the freedom to dispose of their assets in the way that they see fit.”
Conservative MP Wendy Morton called for the bill to “ensure that smaller charities are not disproportionately affected by any bureaucracy or too much legislation”.
“It does not matter whether a charity is small or large: charities have so much to give to our country, society and communities, and I will do all I can to ensure that they get the support they deserve,” she said.
But the minister for civil society, Rob Wilson, said the bill “seeks to achieve a balance” and dismissed concerns of an overly powerful Charity Commission.
He said: “The new Commission powers need to be broad enough to make them useful. If they are too narrow they would be impractical and go unused or would leave loopholes to be exploited by the unscrupulous.”
The committee is expected to hold its first meeting on Tuesday 15 December.
The deadline for submissions from charities is Thursday 7 January, when the committee will finish and report the bill back to MPs.