Latest Public Sector News

06.06.13

Criteria for charitable status should be decided by Parliament – PASC

The Charity Commission is being asked to do too much with too little, the Commons Public Administration Spending Committee (PASC) has warned.

In a new report, PASC states that the public benefit test, used to determine charitable status, is “critically flawed”. The responsibility for determining criteria for charitable status should be decided by Parliament, not the Commission, they argue.

The Government should revise the statutory objectives for the Commission, reject the proposal to increase the financial threshold for compulsory registration of a charity with the Commission, and ensure charities publish spending on campaigning and political activity.

Bernard Jenkin MP, chair of PASC, said: “We are not happy about the way that the Charity Commission has interpreted the law they were asked to interpret, but they are not entirely to blame for becoming embroiled in costly litigation, because the 2006 Act created ambiguity, which ministers at the time were clear that they did not intend.

“Litigation is clearly not a good use of energy or resources and undermines public confidence in the Commission and the sector. The situation must be rectified with a new Act to allow the Commission to focus on its proper job. If ministers want the Commission to regulate the sector more than at present, they will have to increase its budget. There are over 163,000 registered charities and thousands more are registered every week. It is already being expected to do too much with too little.

“It must be for Parliament, not the Charity Commission, to determine the criteria for charitable status. It is then for a properly funded Charity Commission to apply those criteria and decide who will be afforded charitable status.”

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