Charities Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 12th October 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Turner of Camden Baroness Turner of Camden Labour 3:30 pm, 12th October 2005

My Lords, the Bill says nothing about the extent to which a charity may engage in campaigning activities. I submit that there is some doubt about that because one publication from the Charity Commission states that,

"no organisation can be charitable if . . . it is created for the specific purpose of carrying out political or propagandist activities".

But in another publication the commission states:

"By the very nature of their knowledge and social concern . . . some charities are well placed to play a part in public debate on important issues of the day and to make an important contribution to the development of public policy. Others will invariably be drawn into such debate. It would be wrong to think that this cannot and should not happen: it is open to charities to engage in campaigning activities".

Certainly, as a former council member of the Save the Children Fund, I have accepted briefing from that charity which was intended to make an amendment to the previous Education Bill. I spoke on it and told the House that I was speaking to a brief from the Save the Children Fund so that the Government were quite well aware of where the information came from. I received a rather generous response from the Government on that occasion and it resulted in some changes to the law. However, there is some ambiguity about the matter.

The amendment states,

"by virtue of campaigning for changes to the law in any part of the world".

That would of course include international organisations. We now live, as we are constantly told, in a globalised economy. The amendment would mean that organisations such as Amnesty International—I am not certain whether it is regarded as a charity—would be able to make representations to change the law in any part of the world.

It is desirable to have this provision on the record so that there is no ambiguity about it. Without it, people will not be sure what their entitlement or responsibilities are. It is rather a good idea to have it in the Bill. I beg to move.