Charities Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:18 pm on 12th October 2005.

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Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers), Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland - Not In Shadow Cabinet) 3:18 pm, 12th October 2005

My Lords, we have been round this point quite a lot before and the Minister gave us an exposé of the Government's position at col. 146 of the report of our proceedings on 28 June, which I have read with care.

The problem that continues to trouble people is as follows. First, the definition now given in subsection (3)(a) is rather secular in nature. A religion is a religion. It does not address the issue in a way in which the definition adopted in Australia and New Zealand appears to do. More importantly, there is a mismatch between what the Government say the legal position is and how the Charity Commission practically applies it. I have a letter from the Association of British Muslims, which in a nutshell states that although the Government have introduced a clause that says that a religion can now include,

"a religion which involves a belief in more than one god"— or a belief in no god—they have simultaneously said that that will not alter the criteria applied by the Charity Commission. Noble Lords will recall that the Charity Commission's criteria are that a religion has to involve a belief in and worship of a supreme being.

If the Minister could unpick and address that issue—which he may say he has unpicked several times before—it will solve some of the concerns that are floating around and which are reflected in the correspondence to which I have just referred.