Clause 2 — Meaning of "charitable purpose"

Part of Point of Order – in the House of Commons at 2:45 pm on 25th October 2006.

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Photo of Tom Levitt Tom Levitt PPS (Rt Hon Hilary Benn, Secretary of State), Department for International Development 2:45 pm, 25th October 2006

Was it? Oh, right. [ Laughter. ] Nevertheless, the Cheltenham principle of advocating a provision that is "harmless, albeit not entirely necessary" was advanced so many times. This provision would not be regarded as "not entirely necessary" by those who will benefit from it.

On chess, I echo the remarks of my hon. Friend Charlotte Atkins. I ask her to pass on my best wishes on the success of the campaign to Robert Milner, whom she mentioned as the father of chess in north Staffordshire. I remember him well from my days growing up in Leek, and I also taught alongside him for a short period on teaching practice.

Returning to amendments Nos. 123 to 125, I suspect that Dr. Harris and I have similar views on religious faith—I do not profess to hold religious views, and neither does he. However, I have reached different conclusions about the need for and practicality of legislating on the protection or the charitable status of non-religious views. The first part of the hon. Gentleman's speech addressed beliefs and belief systems themselves, whereas it seems to me that charitable purposes can apply only to organisations which are involved in promoting those beliefs and belief systems.

One would not want to discriminate on the grounds of lack of religious belief, just as we do not allow discrimination on the grounds of religious belief, but the Bill does not do that, because it contains so many opportunities for an organisation involved in advancing non-religious beliefs to have its rights protected and for its charitable purposes to be recognised. The hon. Gentleman said that the Government were right not to define religion too tightly, but then appeared to accept that non-religious beliefs could be defined sufficiently well to put them in the Bill, which I found particularly difficult to get my head around.