Monday, September 26, 2005

Charity Law Reform: FAQ no. 1

With the Charities Bill set to be passed during this parliament, we begin today with a series of questions that are already being asked at workshops -

What has been the process so far?

Efforts to reform this out of date legislation have been led by the voluntary sector from the beginning. The Deakin Commission, established by NCVO in 1996 to develop a vision for the future of the voluntary and community sector, outlined the need for reform of charity law. NCVO then set up a working group to develop recommendations for reform in consultation with charities, academics and charity lawyers. The findings were published in the NCVO 2001 report, For the Public Benefit?

Later that year the Government announced a review of the sector’s legal and regulatory framework. This led to the publication of Private Action, Public Benefit in 2002, which included detailed proposals for reforming charity law, similar to those put forward by NCVO. The consultation process demonstrated widespread support for these proposals, both from within the sector and outside. The Government accepted almost all of them and they now form the basis of the current Bill.

In May 2004 the Government published a draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. The Committee took oral and written evidence from charities, charity lawyers and others and recommended a number of practical ways that the Bill could be improved in light of this evidence. Again, many of these recommendations have been taken up by Government and we now have a better Bill as a consequence.

The Bill was introduced into the House of Lords in December 2004 but failed to complete its passage through Parliament before a general election was called. However it was one of the first Bills to be reintroduced into the new Parliament. It received its first reading on 18th May 2005 (the day after the Queen’s Speech) and its second reading on 7th June.

Discussion of the imminent Charities Bill and what it means to the voluntary sector takes place during the Leadership and Management unit of the BTEC Professional Certificate in Voluntary Sector Management available through

For more details go to


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