Session 2010-12
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General Committee Debates
Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft Charities (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Order 2011

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Mike Weir 

Bacon, Mr Richard (South Norfolk) (Con) 

Beresford, Sir Paul (Mole Valley) (Con) 

Blackman-Woods, Roberta (City of Durham) (Lab) 

Bray, Angie (Ealing Central and Acton) (Con) 

Collins, Damian (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con) 

Crabb, Stephen (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con) 

Danczuk, Simon (Rochdale) (Lab) 

Davies, Geraint (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op) 

Doran, Mr Frank (Aberdeen North) (Lab) 

George, Andrew (St Ives) (LD) 

Hurd, Mr Nick (Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office)  

Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab) 

Jarvis, Dan (Barnsley Central) (Lab) 

Latham, Pauline (Mid Derbyshire) (Con) 

Redwood, Mr John (Wokingham) (Con) 

Shannon, Jim (Strangford) (DUP) 

Williams, Mr Mark (Ceredigion) (LD) 

Wright, David (Telford) (Lab) 

Lydia Menzies, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

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Second Delegated Legislation Committee 

Wednesday 27 April 2011  

[Mr Mike Weir in the Chair] 

Draft Charities (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Order 2011 

2.30 pm 

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd):  I beg to move, 

That the Committee has considered the draft Charities (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Order 2011. 

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for, I think, the first time, Mr Weir. The order is quite dry. It will make minor amendments to charity legislation in order to clear up any drafting errors or other minor points before that legislation is consolidated by the Charities Bill, which, as the Committee will probably know, is before Parliament. The order makes changes that cannot be made in the consolidation Bill. I stress that the order does not make any policy changes to charities legislation, not least because the power under which the amendments are made, section 76 of the Charities Act 2006, does not allow that. The power can be used only once and, as I say, is limited to amendments that facilitate the consolidation of charity law. 

The Charities Bill is purely a consolidation Bill that brings together existing charity legislation into one Act of Parliament. It will replace provisions in the Recreational Charities Act 1958, the Charities Act 1993 and the relevant provisions of the Charities Act 2006. The Bill is needed because charity legislation has become so fragmented that it is difficult to follow. For example, the 2006 Act made many amendments to the 1993 Act, and it is extremely difficult to read the legislation without continually cross-referencing between Acts. Our instinct, supported by many noble Lords during the passage of the 2006 Act, is to seek to consolidate the legislation and so make it easier for people to access and understand the law. 

The measure complies with the wishes expressed by the House when the 2006 Act was debated, and several peers have expressed a desire for charities legislation to be simplified. The process that we are discussing was started under the previous Administration. In addition to consolidating legislation, the Charities Bill modernises the language used, which at times can be old-fashioned, and will improve and simplify the structure of the text. Importantly, the Bill does not and cannot make any policy changes; as I have stressed, it merely brings together existing law. 

Likewise, as I have emphasised, the amendment order does not make any policy amendments. The type of amendments that the order makes fall into the following categories. First, they correct minor mistakes in the legislation or make consequential amendments that were previously missed. Secondly, they remove inconsistencies in the legislation. Thirdly, they modernise its language. Fourthly, they repeal provisions in the legislation that

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are considered obsolete. Fifthly, they clarify the effect of the legislation. Sixthly, they deal with consequential provisions relating to other measures in the order. 

I shall give just one example of the proposed changes. Paragraph 12 of the schedule contains two amendments that are designed to deal with two gaps in the 1993 Act regarding communities in Wales that have no community council by referring instead to the community council or, if the community has no council, the council of the county or borough. Paragraph 14 of the schedule modernises the language of section 26(3) of the 1993 Act and clarifies the intended effect of the words “thereby” and “therewith.” Paragraph 16 of the schedule makes a missed consequential amendment to the Land Registration Act 2002. I hope that those examples give the Committee a flavour of the kind of amendments that we are dealing with, and reassurance that the order does not make any changes to policy. On that basis, I commend it to the Committee. 

2.34 pm 

Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab):  I, too, want to say what a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr Weir. I thank the Minister for his explanation of the order and for giving me such a riveting read over the past couple of days. I appreciate that the draft order will make minor, largely technical, changes that will facilitate the implementation of the Charities Bill, which is going through Parliament and will be a consolidating piece of legislation. I am pleased that the Minister has confirmed—at least, I think he has—that the Bill is part of the legislative response to criticisms that the number of amendments made to the 1993 Act and subsequent legislation have made charity law rather difficult for most people to follow. As such, the order is largely concerned with removing inconsistencies in existing legislation, modernising the language, removing obsolete provisions and providing clarifications. Undoubtedly, that process has been helped by the fact that the order and the draft Bill went through pre-legislative scrutiny. 

Paragraph 8.1 of the explanatory memorandum states that the published Bill assumes that the draft order has already been made. Will the Minister explain what that means? I think he also assured us that the draft order will not make substantive changes to the law on charities or introduce new policy. Will he confirm that in his summing up? Paragraph 8.2 notes that some respondents to the consultation on the order asked for substantive changes to be made to the law on charities, and for those changes to be included in the order. The Minister has declined doing that because it is outside the provisions of the 1993 Act. However, does he intend to carry forward those suggestions to the review of the 2006 Act when that commences later this year? Will he also say why it was considered expedient to bring forward the order and the new Charities Bill in advance of the review of the 2006 Act? 

2.37 pm 

Mr Hurd:  I am grateful to the hon. Lady for again taking a constructive approach in our second order in two days. I reconfirm that the whole guiding principle of the process is to make the law simpler, and easier to understand and access. That is the purpose of the draft order. 

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I also reconfirm for the hon. Lady’s benefit that nothing that we are discussing today is about changing our policy on charities. She rightly mentioned that some respondents to the consultation wanted to include other things, such as provisions about fundraising. However, as she mentioned, the powers under which the amendment order is being made do not allow that. The amendments are clearly restricted to ones that facilitate the consolidation of the law on charities. The right forum, as she suggested, for reviewing the effectiveness of legislation on charities is the review of the 2006 Act, which, as I have stated

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publicly, we will embark on later this year. I am pleased to confirm that minds are completely open as to what is included in that review, including specific responses to consolidation. Although that review may make recommendations for future changes to the law, we do not want to lose the opportunity to consolidate the legislation now, which is my answer to her final point. 

Question put and agreed to.  

2.39 pm 

Committee rose.