Sunday, September 25, 2005

Why do we need a charities bill?

One of the questions we're often asked at the moment, especially when running Leadership and Management courses, is 'Why do we need a Charities Bill'?

Having failed to become law before the General Election in May, the Charities Bill has now returned to Parliament. It received its first reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday 18 May 2005 - the day after the Queen’s Speech - and was given its second reading on 7 June 2005. The new Bill is the same as the Bill that was lost when the General Election was called, incorporating all those Government amendments tabled for the Report Stage (which was never reached).

So why do we need a Bill? We need a Charities Bill to provide a modern and effective legal framework for charities; to clarify what charity means in law; and to enhance public trust and confidence both in the concept of charity and charities themselves, particularly amongst the young.

The basis for existing charity law goes back to the preamble to a (now repealed) Act of Elizabeth I, over 400 years ago, and the current list of charitable purposes was last updated in the nineteenth century. Research shows that there is a gap between what people think is, or should be charitable and what is charitable in law according to this list. We need to narrow this gap if we are to retain public trust and confidence in charity.

The current law is also complex and inconsistent, with different categories of charity being treated differently in law. Again this makes it hard for the public to understand what charity is and why some organisations deserve to have this special status.

For further information about the content and progress of the Charities Bill, visit the Charity Commission web site


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