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25 Oct 2006 : Column 1545

Martin Horwood: I am grateful for the Minister’s comments, but they are surprising, given the overwhelming body of legal advice that all the major charities that I mentioned have been receiving for more than a decade. The misunderstanding—if it is that—about the involvement of the trustees is understandable, given what is said in part V of the Charities Act 1993:

I can understand why charities believe that it is the trustees who must approve the reports.

Edward Miliband: On the first point about the legal position, clearly I have infinite capacity to surprise the hon. Gentleman. I am assured that the position is as I said. On the point about trustees, my understanding—I am told this reliably—is that the authorisation can be delegated to members of staff. If I find that that is not the case, for some reason, I will obviously correct it, but that is my strong understanding.

The overall point is that we are discussing a complex area of law. The Charity Commission is clear that double compliance, which is the primary problem that has been raised, is not necessary. The letters read out by the hon. Gentleman, and the letter from STEP, convince me that a lot more work needs to be done on sorting out the perception of the law, and quite possibly its administration by the commission. I have proposed that the commission should undertake such a process, and it has agreed to do so. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.

Martin Horwood: I am grateful to the Minister for his comments, but, as I said, I find them surprising. The people who are concerned about the point of law that we are discussing are not amateur organisations, or junior legacy officers in charities; as he said, they include STEP, which is the professional organisation of trust accountants and lawyers. There is a widespread body of legal opinion that has been shared with most of the top 500 charities, and it suggests that the issue remains a problem in law, hence all the representations that we received. Clarification on the double compliance issue might assist charities, and it will certainly provide them with a defence in law if they are challenged on the lack of a report on a particular occasion, but the overwhelming body of advice from charity lawyers states that there is indeed a problem in law with the personal involvement of trustees and the commissioning of reports.

Edward Miliband: To expand on my earlier point, I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that it is absolutely clear that duties are given to trustees throughout the law, but there are general powers allowing the delegation of many of those duties, including the duty that we are discussing. I hope that that satisfies him, and that he will withdraw his amendment. I give him a promise that there will be proper dialogue on the issue with the commission.

Martin Horwood: I am grateful to the Minister for his comments, and for that promise, to which we will hold him, whatever the outcome.

25 Oct 2006 : Column 1546

Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): Is it not still a problem, despite what the Minister says, that if a conscientious trustee delegates a duty, it is still the trustee who will be liable?

Martin Horwood: I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s comment; indeed, I was about to make it, myself. As a charity trustee, I have some interest in the subject, and perhaps I should declare that interest. Although we have good liability arrangements in place, in general trustees have personal liability in that regard. It is routine to delegate administrative functions, including—as the representations from the various charities have made clear—securing section 36 reports. No one is suggesting that trustees are personally talking to surveyors and estate agents and obtaining the reports; such duties are clearly delegated to the proper officers. However, as part of the approval process that must be followed, I guess that it would be a derogation of trustees’ responsibilities if, at a meeting of trustees or of the governing body, there was not, at the very least, a personal vote on whether to approve the report.

I welcome the Minister’s promises to take the matter up with the Charity Commission and to look at perceptions, as well as the simplification of any regulations. However, that does not remove a problem that, according to the advice of the overwhelming majority of charity lawyers, has persisted for a decade or more. It requires the change of law proposed by the new clause, which I wish to press to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:

The House divided: Ayes 191, Noes 284.

Division No. 325]
[2 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Evans, Mr. Nigel

Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gidley, Sandra
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Laws, Mr. David
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
McCrea, Dr. William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Neill, Robert
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Randall, Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, David
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Viggers, Peter
Walker, Mr. Charles
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Roger Williams and
Mr. Adrian Sanders


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blair, rh Mr. Tony
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Tami, Mark
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, rh Keith
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David

Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Ian Cawsey and
Mr. Alan Campbell
Question accordingly negatived.
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25 Oct 2006 : Column 1550

Clause 2

Meaning of “charitable purpose”

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD): I beg to move amendment No. 123, in page 2, line 10, after ‘religion’, insert ‘or belief’.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 124, in page 2, line 16, after ‘religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity’ and insert

Government amendment No. 2.

Amendment No. 125, in page 2, line 27, at end insert—

‘(aa) in paragraph (c) “belief”, and in paragraph (h) “beliefs”, are to be construed in accordance with article 9 in Schedule 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (c. 42)’.

Government amendment No. 3.

Amendment No. 122, in page 2, line 35, after ‘exertion’ insert

(i) the International Olympic Committee;

(ii) the International Paralympic Committee; or

(iii) the Commonwealth Games Federation.’.

Government amendment No. 4.

Dr. Harris: I shall speak in support of the amendments tabled in my name and the names of other hon. Members from more than one party. I shall talk about Government amendment No. 2 and amendments Nos. 123, 124 and 125. I shall cover in passing amendment No. 122, and I shall say a word about the other Government amendments in the group for another reason.

I accept that I come late to the Bill and I know that a huge amount of excellent work has been done by Ministers and Opposition Front Benchers, not just on this Bill but on a draft Charities Bill and a previous Bill in a previous Parliament. I have followed this particular aspect with interest but I do not claim to be an expert on charity law like other hon. Members who have worked so hard on this impressive piece of legislation.

The issue that I want to speak to is relatively narrow, and the Minister knows that it has been the subject of correspondence with, in particular, the British Humanist Association. I am an honorary associate of the National Secular Society, and I wish to record that. I am also a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which has reported on this matter at least three times, backing in general terms the amendments that I am proposing.

25 Oct 2006 : Column 1551
2.15 pm

The purpose of the amendments is, as the Minister and other hon. Members know, to widen one of the descriptions of charitable purpose—“the advancement of religion”, in clause 2(2)(c)—by adding the words “or belief”, using a definition of belief that is consistent with previous legislation. That should be the default position. The default position in law generally is that when we talk about religion now, we talk about religion and belief. The Government’s own admirable Equality Act 2006 did just that; the Communications Act 2003 did just that; and of course the parts of the Human Rights Act that deal with these issues, notably articles 9 and 14, are predicated on that basis.

The default position should be that the Bill says “religion or belief”, so that non-religious belief systems analogous to religion but not religious, and not simply non-theistic religious views but non-religious belief systems, are covered. So the Government need to provide an explanation, which I may or may not agree with, of why they have departed from what is the default position in modern legislation. I hope that they will realise that there is not a good enough explanation, and will accept the amendments.

Secondly, not to do that creates an issue of principle, which is that in our legislation, non-religious belief systems are being dealt with differently. There is an argument to be had about whether that has a practical impact; I believe that it has, although the Minister may claim that it has not. But regardless of whether there is as yet a visible practical impact, or has been in the past, there is a principled position, which must be explained.

I have certainly received representations, and I have seen a letter dated 18 September to the Minister from the British Humanist Association, which I shall refer to, setting out the practical impact of the fact that until now charities law has dealt with non-theistic belief systems in a different way, meaning that they have to jump through extra hoops and offer extra justifications to get the treatment under charity law that religious charities get almost by default. I intend to discuss that.

Finally, I shall draw attention to the Joint Committee on Human Rights report on this issue, because that Committee’s recommendation is to draw to the attention of both Houses the ongoing concerns.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): I strongly support the hon. Gentleman’s amendments, which I have signed myself. I wondered whether he would give some idea of the proportion of the population who might be excluded in a sense from the coverage of the Bill if the word “belief” were not included.

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