Charities

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st January 1988.

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Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil 12:00 am, 21st January 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any proposals to seek to change charities law; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Baker Mr Nicholas Baker , North Dorset

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will bring forward proposals to amend current arrangements for the monitoring and control of charities.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The Government have warmly welcomed the report by Sir Philip Woodfield of his efficiency scrutiny of the supervision of charities. We accept the report's conclusion that, while the essentials of the present supervisory framework are still necessary, the system needs extensive reform. The report's proposals to strengthen the Charity Commission's powers, and in particular its capacity to deal with abuse, provide a sound basis for the future.

Most of the report's recommendations concerning the procedures and internal management of the Charity Commission are already being put into effect. Those recommendations affecting the extent and nature of the commission's powers will need primary legislation. We would hope to put forward proposals for such legislation later in this Parliament.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

The Home Secretary's statement will be welcome in view of the fact that charities are being abused, as he knows. There are cases where so-called charities are returning as little as 10 per cent, to charitable purposes. Business men are earning fat profits and running expense accounts and vehicles to dodge tax. When does the Home Secretary expect the legislation to be complete and in place?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

We need to think it through carefully, but Sir Philip Woodfield clearly showed that the Charity Commission ought to spend more time monitoring and spotting the kind of problem to which the hon. Member referred, and less time carrying through pernickety procedures laid down by law, which should not have the same priority.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Baker Mr Nicholas Baker , North Dorset

My right hon. Friend's announcement is very welcome on the Government side of the House. Does he accept that too many bodies which do not deserve it are taking considerable tax advantage of charitable status? Will he also accept that too many charities are suffering from maladministration and that too many charities are engaged in political advertising and political activity?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

There has been a huge expansion of charitable activity in recent years. We need to make sure that the framework of law is right to guard against the problems. I am holding a seminar at the Home Office on Monday, to which many leading charities will be sending people, to clarify in our own minds more thoroughly what the content of legislation might be.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

In view of their present position, can the Home Secretary tell us whether the Liberals and the SDP would now qualify for charity assistance?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I think they would have some difficulty in submitting to the commission the necessary details of their rules and membership.