HC Deb 18 July 1974 vol 877 cc637-8
2. Mr. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation designed to assist the Charity Commissioners more effectively to scrutinise the accounts of registered charities.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Dr. Shirley Summer-skill)

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend believes that adequate powers are already available under the Charities Act 1960.

Mr. Beith

Is the hon. Lady aware that there is concern either that the powers may be inadequate or that the commissioners may be unable effectively to use these powers in respect of many small charities whose funds are in investments with low rates of return, some of which have not submitted annual accounts or have not been required to do so? Would not legislation help on these and wider questions of qualifications for charity status?

Dr. Summerskill

The Charity Commission is an independent body and its decisions are subject to review by the courts and not by Ministers, but my right hon. Friend will be willing to discuss with the Charity Commissioners, who have day-to-day responsibilities in this area, any suggestions relating to the administration of the present law on charities.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the time has come for new legislation to enable the Charity Commissioners to know much more clearly which organisations merit charitable status? Should there not be much firmer guidelines, so that the commissioners know what is or is not a pressure group, and what is or is not a political organisation? At present, many organisations which do excellent work are not given the benefit of charitable status.

Dr. Summerskill

I note what my hon. Friend says, and I repeat that my right hon. Friend will be willing to discuss any change in the law with the Charity Commissioners.