Official warnings by the Commission

Part of Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 15 December 2015.

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Photo of Anna Turley Anna Turley Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 9:30, 15 December 2015

My hon. Friend makes a really important point. The relationship is long standing, sophisticated and complex. It is right that there is an opportunity to give notice of a warning in the Bill. Our issue is that there is no significant timeframe and no notice of the timeframe. I will explain why that is such a critical issue, but my hon. Friend is absolutely right; it is important that there is a nuanced and balanced relationship and opportunities for both sides to state their case in any dispute.

I will now focus on the amendment. The Bill helpfully ensures that before issuing a warning, the commission must give notice of its intention to do so. However, there is no indication in the legislation of timescales for a warning. The briefing from the commission states that

“the Commission has confirmed it will ensure that a reasonable time for representations is given”.

It continues:

“The timing is likely to vary for warnings in different cases, depending on how much engagement and warning the charity has had during engagement with them, and there may be times when the timescales might have to be relatively short (if, for example, it relates to a time critical incident)”.

It states that operational guidance for its staff will be published. However, this seems very vague and gives total discretion in this situation to the commission. What is a reasonable time? Could that mean a matter of hours or a phone call before a press release is sent out? We know the potential damaging implications for a charity of publicity around the warning.