Charity Law Reform

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 6th March 2003.

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Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour 2:30 pm, 6th March 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what arrangements it has made for consultation with the voluntary sector during the development of its response to the McFadden commission recommendations on charity law reform. (S1O-6565)

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

There was extensive consultation with the voluntary sector and other relevant interests prior to the Executive's response to the McFadden commission report, which was published on 16 December 2002. In taking forward our policy, we will continue to be open and responsive to the views of the charity sector.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

The minister will be aware of the Home Secretary's positive announcement that he will publish a draft charities bill that will provide a coherent framework for charity legislation in England and Wales. Does the minister agree that there is a need for early legislation on that matter? Does he also agree that the task of establishing a new regulator should progress hand in hand with the new bill? Will he make a commitment to a Scottish charities bill that is based on the McFadden commission's recommendations?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

As much as I agree with Jackie Baillie, I do not entirely agree that we should hold up the establishment of the office of the Scottish charities regulator pending legislation. It is important that we get the office of the regulator off the ground as an executive agency as soon as we can. However, I accept that important work has been done south of the border and that the definition of charity work that was produced by the Cabinet Office strategy unit reflects other aspirations and bears the spirit of the McFadden recommendations. I will be writing to the Home Secretary to stress the importance, from a Scottish perspective, of the new modernised definition of a charity.

I do not think that it would be proper, so close to an election, to commit a future Administration to legislative plans.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

The voluntary sector is fearful that the spirit of the McFadden recommendations is being eroded by the delay since the first of four social justice ministers in this Executive announced the review of charity law, and since the second of the four announced that legislation would be introduced. Does the minister accept those concerns? Will he explain why the fundamental recommendation that there should be a charities act is being ignored, and why the pledge of a previous minister is being reversed?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I do not accept that the spirit of the McFadden recommendations has been eroded. Indeed, one of the McFadden commissioners was reported in Third Force News as saying that the Executive response was worth the wait. It is clear that we have accepted the thrust of the report, namely that there should be better regulation of charities in Scotland, and that we have responded positively to the majority of the McFadden recommendations. Legislation would be useful to introduce a new legal form for charities—the charitable incorporated organisation; to extend trustees' investment powers; to improve the procedures and powers of the charities' nominees; and perhaps to implement other measures to extend the regulatory powers available to the regulator. However, the point is that that bill was not envisaged for this parliamentary session, and while some legislation will be necessary, it would not be appropriate to give a time scale for it or to commit the next Administration to it.