|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
I am not sure that "one, four"14is the right section for the Minister to be quoting. Perhaps he will write to me to tell me the right section so that we do not delay matters. I shall read with care what the noble Lord said, and will then come back to the matter before the next stage of the Bill.
Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for that clarification. Obviously something got left out of the Minister's notes. We all do it. My handwriting is so bad that my wife tells me that she is still unable to read the letters I wrote to her before she was unwise enough to accept my offer of marriage. Had she been able to read them, she might not have accepted. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Noble Lords will remember that in Committee on 28 June I undertook to give further consideration to an amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, that would have extended the functions of the Charity Appeal Tribunal. The noble Lord's amendment would have given the tribunal the additional function of considering matters referred to it by the Attorney-General or, with the Attorney-General's consent, by the Charity Commission, the reference being made before the commission had made any decision on the matter.
This group of amendments is the result of our considerations. Because it is a rather fearsome-looking group, I shall explain with some care what effect it would have. As drafted, the Bill would give the tribunal two functions. In summary, these are, first, considering appeals against specific decisions, directions or orders made by the commission; and, secondly, reviewing decisions by the commission to open statutory inquiries and decisions by the commission not to do other specified things.
The amendments will give the tribunal a third function; namely, determining a matter referred to it, before the commission has made any decision on the matter, by the Attorney-General or the commission. The commission's power to refer a matter to the tribunal will be excisable only with the Attorney-General's consent. Both the attorney and the
12 Oct 2005 : Column 344
commission will be able to refer to the tribunal questions involving the operation or the application of charity law. In addition, the commission will be able to refer questions about the exercise of its own functions.
The attorney or the commission will always be party to proceedings on its own references and will be entitled to join itself as a party to proceedings on references by the other. The tribunal may allow any charity or other person who is likely to be affected by its decision to be party to the proceedings.
As with proceedings under the tribunal's two other functionsappeals and reviewswe propose that each party should generally bear its own costs. The exception to that will, as in the other two cases, be that the tribunal may order a party who has acted vexatiously, frivolously or unreasonably to pay other party's costs. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, would give the tribunal an extra power to order the Attorney-General or the commission, as the case may be, to pay other parties' costs, but we do not think that that is necessary or desirable.
Proceedings on references to the tribunal will generally not be adversarial since the purpose will essentially be to help clarify the law where the commission has not yet made a decision. An affected person or charity wanting to have their own view of the law taken into account by the tribunal may join himself as a party and should pay his own costs if he decides to do that. But he need not join himself as a party, since the attorney or the commission will be able to ensure that his view is put across to the tribunal. By choosing that route the person or charity will not have to be represented, will not incur any costs at the proceedings, but will have their view taken into consideration.
Where the reference is about the application of charity law to any particular state of affairs, the commission will be prevented from taking any action based on its own view of the law until the tribunal has made its decision. The exception to that will be that the commission can act before the tribunal has made its decision if all of the parties to the proceedings, and any charities likely to be affected by the commission's action, agree that the commission can act.
After the tribunal has made a decision on a reference about the application of charity law to any particular state of affairs, the commission will have to give effect to the tribunal's decision. There will be no appeal allowed to the tribunal against a commission decision which gives effect to the tribunal's earlier decision.
With that extra function of determining references, the tribunal will become more than an appeal tribunal. The name Charity Appeal Tribunal will no longer, we think, therefore be appropriate. We therefore propose to change it to Charity Tribunal, and to make the same change for the Welsh equivalent of the name. The amendments in this group achieve that change of name. I beg to move.
12 Oct 2005 : Column 345
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister and the Government for having tabled this group of amendments to deal with the points that we discussed in Committee. Perhaps I may ask one question. I have not had a chance to check this, because I read this only just before we came in here. Under Amendment No. 50, new paragraph 1(2), headed, References by Commission, states:
When the Minister introduced this, he said that he was following the amendment that I proposed on 28 June. I was not aware that I had cross-referenced in that way. Fortunately, I have a copy of Hansard to hand. The amendment read:
"In addition to the appeals and applications which may be made to the Tribunal pursuant to the provisions of Schedule 4 to this Act, the Attorney General or the Commission may of their own volition refer to the Tribunal such issues relating to the application of the charity law as they may consider should be reviewed and determined by the Tribunal".[Official Report, 28/06/05; col. 216.]
I am extremely grateful to the Government for having made those steps, but I am not quite sure why the commission should have to clear everything with the Attorney-General. That was not in my original amendment, which I have just read out. I was slightly disturbed, because the commission seems to be freestanding and we want it to be able to go to the tribunal, as we now call it, without having to get clearance.
It may be that I have missed an extraordinarily specialist, detailed point of administrative law and that this is how it always works. Can the Government explain that, because I am slightly concerned by it?
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I commend the Government on Amendment No. 50, which is a significant improvement to the Bill. I apologise for not giving notice of my question, but it occurred to me only on the Bench, so to speak. It relates to the fact, as the noble Lord said in moving the amendment, that there can be a reference by the commission to the tribunal at any time in connection with the exercise by the commission of any of its functions before a decision is made by the commission. I see the point of that perfectly.
It may be that I have missed it, but I do not see in this amendment any duty on the part of the commission in making such a reference to so advertise the reference and the point and purpose of the reference that any
12 Oct 2005 : Column 346
person likely to be affected by it would know in time to make application to the tribunal to be admitted a party to those proceedings.
I apologise if I am raising a matter for which there is an answer. I am not expecting the Minister to respond here and now, but I would like him to comment on the reasonableness of my question and that, if it proved the case that there is no mechanism for public notification of such a reference, there will be something in the Bill at Third Reading.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|