HC Deb 23 July 1987 vol 120 cc583-94

10 pm

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. John Stanley)

I beg to move, That the draft Charities (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 29th April, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved. The background to this order is as follows. The Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel, which is the charity authority for Northern Ireland, has for some time felt that certain minor changes in the existing charity legislation, most of which dates from 1964, would be desirable. Similar thoughts prompted the Finance and Personnel Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly to begin an examination of charity law in Northern Ireland. Having taken evidence from interested parties, the committee produced a report on this subject which was adopted by the Assembly in 1985. The report made a number of recommendations for changes in the present system of charity law. Although the Government were not able to accept all of those recommendations, it was clear that some of them would be advantageous to charities in Northern Ireland and should be put into effect.

Simultaneously, Parliament was considering and updating the law in England and Wales through the Charities Act 1985. Although certain of the provisions of the Act are appropriate only to the system of charity law in England and Wales, others could be of use in Northern Ireland. The order, therefore, stems partly from the England and Wales Charities Act 1985 and partly from recent studies in the Province to update charity legislation.

May I now take the main provisions of the order in turn? Article 3 is very closely based on the provisions of the Charities Act 1985 and relates to local charities for the relief of poverty which are at least 50 years old. It provides that the trustees of such a charity may pass a resolution altering the trusts of the charity if they are of the unanimous opinion that the existing trusts are obsolete, useless, or impracticable and that an alteration of the trusts is required in order that the charity's resources may be applied to better effect. The new trusts must not be so dissimilar to those of the original as to constitute an unjustifiable departure from the intentions of the founder of the charity, and the procedure is subject to the agreement of the Department of Finance and Personnel.

Article 4, which is also based on part of the Charities Act 1985, relates to charities with an annual income of £200 or less and provides that the trustees of such a charity may unanimously, and again with the Department's agreement, transfer their charity's assests to the trustees of another charity with similar purposes to be held and applied as the property of the latter charity.

Article 5, which again is based on the Charities Act 1985, relates to very small charities with an endowment of £25 or less and an annual income of less than £5. The Article provides that the trustees of such a charity may, if they all agree that the charity's property is too small for any useful purpose to be achieved by the expenditure of its income, pass a resolution that the charity ought to be freed of any restriction on the expenditure of its capital. They can then spend the charity's capital as well as its income for its objects and thus bring the charity to an end.

Article 6 is based in part on the recommendations of the Northern Ireland Assembly's report and is divided into four parts. Article 6, paragraph 1, relates to section 13 of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 under which the Department of Finance and Personnel may make cy pres schemes altering the purposes of a charitable trust where the original purpose has failed for any reason. The expression "cy pres" is a Norman French term and has come through usage to mean "as near as possible". The essence of the present doctrine is therefore that if a gift is given with a general charitable intent the law shall not allow the failure of a particular mode of trust to defeat the testator's intentions but will allow other charitable purposes to be substituted that are as near as possible to the testator's original intentions.

The making of a cy pres scheme is a function which belongs traditionally to the Chancery court. The object of giving this function as well to the Department of Finance and Personnel in respect of very small charities was to save those charities the cost of the court proceedings which would either seriously reduce the resources of the charity or result in the virtual cessation of the charity because the trustees felt that they could not afford the expense of court proceedings. The department's power to make a cy pres scheme is at present restricted to charities whose assets do not exceed £5,000. This asset ceiling was set 22 years ago and an upward revision is long overdue. In line with the recommendation in the Northern Ireland Assembly's report, it is proposed to increase this limit to £50,000.

Article 6, paragraph 2, relates to section 14 of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 1964. It occasionally happens that when preparing his will a charitable donor so misdescribes the charity which he had in mind as to make it difficult for his personal representatives to be certain where the money should go. Section 14 authorises the personal representatives to transfer the gift to the department which, after inquiry and subject to the approval of the Attorney-General, will transfer it to whichever charity or charities appear to be appropriate, having regard to the donor's intentions. This section can be used only where the value of the gift does not exceed £250, and it is proposed to increase this limit to £2,500.

Article 6, paragraph 3, relates to section 24 of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 which is concerned with mixed trusts. These are trusts which fail because they include both charitable and non-charitable objects. This particular problem was highlighted in England in the 1940s in a series of court cases of which the best known is the Diplock case. In this case a testator left the residue of his estate amounting to more than £250,000 for such charitable or benevolent purposes in England as his trustees or executors should in their absolute discretion select. It was held, following a number of previous decisions, that because the term "benevolent" was wider than the term "charitable" the executors were entitled to apply the fund outside the sphere of charity and it was ruled that the gift was not a charitable gift. The net result was that funds already distributed had to be recovered from various charities in Sussex and sent to a distant cousin of the testator in Australia, whom he may never have known—lucky man that he was.

Section 24 of the 1964 Act provides that in such circumstances the whole of the gift is to be applied for charitable purposes in accordance with schemes made by the Chancery court or, if the value of the gift does not exceed £5,000, by the department. Under article 6, paragraph 3, this limit is increased to £50,000.

Article 6, paragraph 4, introduces a new section to the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 which will allow future changes in the financial limits in sections 13, 14 and 24 to be made by order subject to affirmative resolution. This will enable the monetary limits to which I have referred to be altered more readily in response to changes in the value of money.

Article 7 relates to the way in which land and periodical payments charged on land are valued for the purposes of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 1964. Under the existing section 32 of the 1964 Act, they are to be valued as prescribed multiples of the net annual value of the land concerned. This is not a very realistic system, since the net annual value does not respond very rapidly to changes in the actual market value of land, and it is proposed that by means of article 7 the existing section 32 will be done away with and replaced by a new section. The new section 32 will provide that the value of any land or periodical payment charged on land for the purposes of the Act shall be assessed by the commissioner of valuation.

Article 9 has been introduced to close a potential loophole in the existing charity law. At present it is possible that a charity that is a company or body corporate, and has power to alter the instruments establishing it as a body corporate, could alter those instruments in such a way as to allow property given for charitable purposes to be used for purposes that are not charitable. That situation has not yet arisen, but it would clearly be undesirable for charity property to be diverted in that way and article 9, which is based on section 30(2) of the Charities Act 1960, which applies in England and Wales, will prevent that.

Article 10 relates to a transfer of functions from the Department of Health and Social Services to the Department of Finance and Personnel. At present the former Department, under the House to House Charitable Collections Act (Northern Ireland) 1952 has power to issue exemption orders that allow the organisers of large-scale house-to-house collections for charitable purposes to carry out those collections without having to obtain permission from each police district. That function is presently exercised by the Department of Health and Social Services as one of its miscellaneous licensing functions, but it is felt that it would be more appropriately exercised by the Department of Finance and Personnel, which has general responsibility for charity matters in Northern Ireland, and article 10 will transfer it to the latter Department.

The three schedules contain pro forma resolutions of the types that can be passed by the trustees of certain charities under articles 3, 4 and 5. It is felt to be desirable to provide them, partly to save trustees the trouble of drafting their own resolutions, and partly to ensure that the charities that take advantage of those articles pass resolutions in a consistent and legally sound form.

Those are the main points of the order. It is a difficult and complex area of law. I am sorry to have detained the House briefly to explain the provisions, but I believe that they will be of considerable interest to lawyers and trustees of a considerable number of charities in the Province. I felt it right to explain the provisions carefully to the House and to people outside. I therefore commend the order to the House.

10.12 pm
Mr. James Marshall (Leicester, South)

I welcome the Minister's full explanation of the details of the draft order. It has shed far more light on the order than prevailed hitherto in my mind, having attempted to read the draft order before the debate.

I should like to ask the Minister about the recommendations that the Northern Ireland Assembly proposed in 1985 on the modernisation of charity law. The Minister said that some of those recommendations had been accepted and others were rejected or not placed in the draft order. I am sure that some right hon. and hon. Members who are in the House this evening will make great play of the recommendations that are omitted. If we accept that the people who know best on these matters are the people in Northern Ireland, will the Minister give his reasons for accepting certain recommendations and including them in the draft order and rejecting others? It is of paramount importance that if the House is to overrule the views of local politicians in the Province, the reasons for doing so are made absolutely clear.

We welcome and support the order and have no intention to vote against it if a Division is called.

10.13 pm
Mr. Tim Yeo (Suffolk, South)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on his lucid exposition of the order which was admirably brief. It could not have been done more concisely or speedily.

I should like to comment on two or three of the order's provisions as well as on a couple of omissions. However, I should like to say, first, as a Member of Parliament representing a constituency in East Anglia, and in the light of some of the remarks yesterday after Scottish Question Time, that it is important that occasionally we have the chance to take part in debates on Northern Ireland. Nothing could symbolise our commitment to the union more effectively than for mainland Members to he able to contribute to such debates.

The Charities Act 1985, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, seems to have been the forerunner of three of the provisions in the order. That Act started life as a private Member's Bill in the other place. I had the opportunity of being responsible for its speedy passage through this House. So speedy was its passage that we did not get the chance to debate it on the Floor of the House; we merely had one Committee sitting upstairs. Just to put your mind at rest, Mr. Speaker, I am not seeking, by the device of this order, to debate those measures in any detail now. However, had the House had the chance to examine the Charities Act 1985, it might have wished to be a little bolder in its approach.

I want, in particular, to refer to articles 4 and 5 of the order which reflect clauses in the 1985 Act. Article 4 has, as my right hon. Friend mentioned, a limit on £200 a year as the income level above which charities cannot take advantage of this article, which allows them, in effect, to merge with another charity. Similarly, article 5 has the limit of a permanent endowment of not more than £25 and an annual income of not more than £5 if a charity wishes to spend its capital.

Those limits are ludicrously low. We have more than 100,000 charities in England and Wales. Unfortunately, because of the inadequacy of our registration system in England and Wales nobody knows exactly how many charities we have, not even the body that is responsible for keeping the register. Out of more than 100,000, fewer than 50 have been able to take advantage of the 1985 Act in the two years in which it has been in force.

If we were to extrapolate those figures to Northern Ireland, where it is estimated that there are about 9,000 charities, we might assume that the benefits of articles 4 and 5 could be used by perhaps five charities over the next two years. Therefore, it is not exactly a measure which will make great progress towards reducing the number of small charities, simplifying the administration, relieving the burden on trustees and so on. I am disappointed at the inadequacy of the 1985 Act which is now reflected in the order. No risks at all would be run if those financial limits were multiplied by 25 or even 50; if charities with an income of up to £5,000 a year were allowed to merge with other charities, or if charities with an endowment of £500 or £750 or with an income of up to £150 a year were allowed to expend their capital.

No terrible disaster would follow from allowing charities of that size to take advantage of these provisions. Indeed, under the order, they would be able to take these steps only if they had the approval of the Department of Finance and Personnel, just as in England and Wales charities are only able to use the measures in the 1985 Act if they have the approval of the Charity Commission.

Therefore, there is a safeguard, even if charities significantly larger than those at present covered by the order were allowed to make the changes, either to merge or to wind themselves up. No great abuse would follow from that. Indeed, in view of the Government's rejection of other much more urgently needed reforms, which would curb genuine abuses among charities, the Government's timidity in this respect is disappointing. I am sorry that Northern Ireland has not been able to be much bolder in its approach. It could have set an example which in due course might have been followed by the rest of the United Kingdom. In that sense, I am afraid that the order represents a missed opportunity.

I refer now to the omissions that concern me. My right hon. Friend has already referred to the report of the Northern Ireland Assembly, "The Modernisation of Charity Law in Northern Ireland." I am afraid that I had not previously been aware of that report, but I have had a chance to consider it this week. It seems in many ways an excellent report, containing some recommendations that, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, are incorporated in this order. I should like to comment on two of the recommendations that it contains.

First, the report rightly refers to the need for a register of charities in Northern Ireland. It seems most extraordinary that the Department of Finance and Personnel, which appears to be the Department that is primarily responsible for the supervision of charities, cannot produce a list of the charities that it supervises. So far as I can tell, only the Inland Revenue could tell us which charities currently operate in Northern Ireland—that is, if the Revenue would be willing to tell us. The Revenue normally refuses — quite rightly — to give information about any taxpayer, whether an individual, corporation or, presumably, a charity. Of course, charities are not taxpayers except in the unfortunate sense that they are liable to VAT. I do not see how anyone could claim that adequate supervision takes place if the organisations to be supervised are not known. It is most unsatisfactory.

A public interest is at stake. Every taxpayer in the United Kingdom is indirectly a compulsory financial contributor to charities by virtue of the fact that substantial amounts are lost in tax revenue because of the tax concessions that charities enjoy. I am sure that such concessions are supported by hon. Members of all parties. However, as I have said, every one of us who is a taxpayer contributes indirectly to a number of charities, some of which are in Northern Ireland. I am delighted about that, but it seems unsatisfactory that if I, as a taxpayer, in the United Kingdom wished to see a list of the charities to which I contribute in Northern Ireland, no one could supply me with that list.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

My hon. Friend is arguing for equality of treatment as a taxpayer between this part of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. However, in his previous submission he said that there should be a difference. Will he explain why he takes a different view, being for equality of taxation on the one hand, but stating on the other hand that there should be differences? Is not that playing into the hands of those Unionists who argue that we should have similarity of treatment when it is clear that there is a good case for ensuring that we have something which, if not slightly dissimilar, is similar enough to ensure parity within the United Kingdom as a whole?

Mr. Yeo

My hon. Friend reads too much into my argument. In my earlier remarks, I suggested that Northern Ireland could offer an example to the rest of the United Kingdom by being a little bolder in allowing larger charities to merge or to wind up than happens at present in England and Wales. On taxation treatment, I emphasise that I am not always talking about taxpayers in England and Wales, because the same is true of taxpayers in Northern Ireland, who would not be able to obtain the information that should be available. I do not think that a point can be made on this about promoting the Union.

There is a need in my view, and in the recommendations of the report of the Northern Ireland Assembly, for a register of charities in Northern Ireland. Indeed, in England and Wales we have just received a report on an efficiency scrutiny by Sir Philip Woodfield, who held a senior office in Northern Ireland in his Civil Service career. Unfortunately, the terms of reference of his efficiency scrutiny required him only to take note of the position in Northern Ireland. It is a pity that someone with such a detailed knowledge of Northern Ireland was not invited to comment in more detail on the administration of charities there.

Be that as it may, it is worth bringing to the attention of the House the fact that prominent among the recommendations of Sir Philip Woodfield's scrutiny, which was placed in the Library of the House last week, is a series of conclusions that would require much tighter administration of the register of charities that is maintained by the Charity Commission in this country. At the very moment when the Government receive those recommendations, it seems a pity that they have not taken the opportunity to introduce at least the basic outline of some form of register of charities in Northern Ireland.

Naturally, my right hon. Friend will point to the cost involved. In the evidence given by the Department of Finance and Personnel to the assembly Committee which produced the report two years ago it was suggested that 20 extra staff would be required to set up a register. If there are 9,000 charities in Northern Ireland, the Committee is saying that each member of staff is capable of registering only 450 charities. That does not seem a heavy work load. I would be rather disappointed if I was contracting this out and the tenderer said, "For every 450 charities, I need an extra member of staff." That seems a ludicrously low rate of productivity.

If someone asked me to do the job, I would not register any charity with an income of less than £1,000. That would probably wipe out about half of them immediately, leaving about 4,500 charities. I would conduct the exercise over three years, so would register about 1,500 charities a year. I should have thought that that would have needed a staff of no more than three. Each of that staff of three would be asked to register two charities on each working day. That does not seem to be an excessively onerous work load. If we followed the suggestion in Sir Philip Woodfield's scrutiny for England and Wales, we could charge every charity on the register, for example, £50. If we are dealing only with charities with an income of more than £1,000 a year, that sum does not seem too excessive as a onceand-for-all registration fee. The 4,500 charities would thus provide an income of £225,000. Even on the salaries which the Northern Ireland Office might have to pay civil servants, three people could probably be hired for three years to conduct this exercise. Therefore, the argument of the cost of the register being a reason for not going ahead with it is wholly fallacious.

The second recommendation of the report of the Northern Ireland Assembly deals with the question of which body is responsible for supervising charities in Northern Ireland. I understand that at present it is the Department of Finance and Personnel. The report suggested that the Charity Commission, which at present deals only with England and Wales, should have its writ extended to cover Northern Ireland. I have some sympathy with that recommendation, although I understand that because of the different legal structures it may be a rather difficult exercise. I certainly have reason to believe that it would not be particularly welcomed by the Charity Commission.

An alternative recommendation if the first were not possible is to have a counterpart body in the Province which would fulfil the same sort of functions as the Charity Commission fulfils in England and Wales. That seems perfectly possible. In any event, it does not seem entirely satisfactory that the Department of Finance and Personnel is responsible for supervising charities.

I hope that my right hon. Friend can at least assure the House that he will reconsider these two matters, particularly in the light of what I hope will be a positive response from the Home Office later in the year to Sir Philip Woodfield's recommendations on the organisation of the Charity Commission and its responsibilities covering England and Wales. If my right hon. Friend can give us that assurance, we can look forward to the system of regulation of charities in Northern Ireland being put on a sounder footing.

I say that, not because I believe that vast abuses are taking place in Northern Ireland—I have no reason to believe that, and I hope that that will never be the case — but because if charities throughout the United Kingdom are to be able to play the enlarged role which the Government have constantly said that they would like them to play — I welcome that — and if they are to continue to enjoy what I hope will be increasing tax concessions, it is essential to sustain public confidence. Both the public and the Government must have confidence that charities are subject to adequate scrutiny and regulation. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend can give the House those assurances.

10.29 pm
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

I assure the hon. Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo) that there is always a welcome from the Official Unionist Benches for anyone from any part of the United Kingdom who contributes to debates on Northern Ireland. We should like to think that we would contribute more often ourselves in the House and bring informed comment to the debates.

I welcome the Minister of State to his new capacity as the Minister responsible for the financial aspects of Northern Ireland affairs. Although he suggested that the order stemmed from the Department, it had an earlier incarnation, in that it started rolling from the Northern Ireland Council of Social Service, which is now the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action. That body sent the order to the Minister concerned; it sent a copy to the Northern Ireland Assembly, and from there we began to move on it as well.

It is interesting that one of the few positive things in the report of the Northern Ireland Assembly that the Minister has been able to incorporate in the order is the error that we discoverd in the submission from the Department of Finance and Personnel — a misprint which gave £5,000 as £50,000. We recommended that that £50,000 should be the cy-pres ceiling. That is one of the few positive suggestions from the Northern Ireland Assembly that have been incorporated, which is fascinating.

I am not sure whether the Minister's presentation reflected a desire to be succinct and to help the lawyers outside the House or a weariness—I share it—with the order. If I could speak with the tongues of men and of angels and convince the House that the hon. Member for Suffolk, South was right to say that there should be a register and a Charity Commission in Northern Ireland, it would not make a bit of difference—the provision must go through. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) said this afternoon, we are going through a charade. As he is older than me, he said that he is no longer playing charades.

I want to put on record tonight the fact that the House has been unwilling to incorporate a Charity Commission for Northern Ireland. It is an abomination that the Department of Finance and Personnel — a Government Department—should be responsible for the charities of Northern Ireland. There would be an uproar here if charities became the responsibility of the Treasury instead of the Charity Commission. There is something wrong with people's charities being administered primarily by a Government Department. It is equally an abomination when one considers that Sir Philip Woodfield's report, to which the hon. Member for Suffolk, South referred, has recommended the extension of the charity Commissioners of England and Wales to Scotland. The laws of Scotland are more different from those of England and Wales than are those of Northern Ireland. There is something more hypocritical than usual going on in politics when we are told that the Government want to bring Northern Ireland into line with England and Wales when that seems cost-effective — thereby running down our outstanding educational institutions, to which tribute was paid today in the House—while on the other hand, when the Northern Ireland Assembly asks that the charity laws of Northern Ireland be brought into line with those of England and Wales, that cannot be done. No rational explanation has been given as to why not.

I want to put on record our utter dissatisfaction with the way in which we are treated. The Northern Ireland Assembly was set up by the House to bring forward recommendations. One hon. Member, who because of his professional background and earlier incarnation has taken an immense interest in charities, said that he was not aware of this report until this week, yet, by the laws of this land, it has been tabled in the House. As the Chairman of the Committee that piloted one report through the Assembly, I realise how many hours have been wasted. Almost 25 years have to pass before there is an opportunity to reform the law. The last opportunity was in 1964. We have been told that it will be years before some of Sir Philip Woodfield's recommendations can be implemented. it is tragic that the House is going through this charade when, by holding back a little and accepting the concrete recommendations put to the Government, we could have had a fine charitable law to guide and help.

In the meantime, the Inland Revenue will continue to say what is a charitable body and what is not. It is interesting that the Revenue was not able to come before the Northern Ireland Assembly Finance Committee to give evidence so that we could evaluate its input. The body that administers the law, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, likewise was not able to give evidence to the committee.

I welcome the fact that one or two of the smaller items have been accepted by the Government, but the order contradicts recommendation 8.1(e) of the Assembly's report. Paragraph 5.12, says: nor should piecemeal legislative action be taken on specific purposes". There should be proper reform of the charitable laws in Northern Ireland. I regret that that has not been done.

The order tackles none of the issues and provides no means of guiding new charities and effectively overseeing their work and the spending of funds. It evades all the matters of concern and avoids questions raised from experience of the Charity Commission for England and Wales. I have no qualms about the way in which the average charity in Northern Ireland is administered. Those who do the work do it remarkably well. There is always the possibility of mistakes being made, but it is sad that the part of the nation with the highest per capita rate of charitable giving is left apart from the rest of the nation and the charitable laws that guide the rest.

10.38 pm
Mr. Stanley

With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, I should be glad to respond briefly to the points raised by hon. Members.

The hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) asked why we had rejected various Assembly proposals. I understand that a voluminous document has been prepared and submitted to the Assembly, explaining why a number of the proposals were rejected. I shall be happy to obtain a copy and send it to the hon. Gentleman for his holiday reading— [Interruption.] —in October. We are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo) for giving us the benefit of his great expertise and experience of charitable matters and charitable law. He mentioned the financial limits in articles 4 and 5 of the order, which follows the Charities Act 1985. I understand what my hon. Friend said, but I can only put it to him that those who designed and structured that Act were clearly mindful of the need to ensure the greatest possible protection for the wishes of donors, especially those who give relatively small sums. I understand that my hon. Friend feels that we have been too cautious, but I am sure that he will understand that transferring small donations to a charity other than the original beneficiary is a sensitive matter.

My hon. Friend mentioned registration. I am aware that the matter has been considered. In paragraph 6 of their 1982 annual report, the Charity Commissioners made it clear that a register does not provide proof that all registered charities are bona fide. It said: We are not making moral judgments. Nor does registration imply that we are satisfied that an institution will be well managed, or that we arc giving it a kind of Consumer Association seal of approval". I assure my hon. Friend that almost all requests for information about charities that are addressed to the Department of Finance and Personnel can be answered satisfactorily without recourse to a register. The point at issue is whether the utility of a register outweighs the considerable cost of its production.

My hon. Friend questioned whether the cost of producing a register would be as high as has been suggested, and I listened to what he said about it. I should like to reflect on what he said, take further advice and write to him. I shall place a copy of my reply in the Library as the House is about to go into recess.

Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)

Is the Minister saying that he has ministerial responsibility for the administration of charities? If so, where will he draw the line when answering questions in the House?

Mr. Stanley

I understand that the Department of Finance and Personnel is the body responsible for matters of charitable law in Northern Ireland. In so far as there is ministerial responsibility, we shall discharge our respon-sibilities to the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, South also considered whether the Charity Commission should be extended to Northern Ireland and whether the Department of Finance and Personnel should continue to be the body responsible for the administration of charitable matters in the Province. As he is aware, there is a substantially different corpus of law on charities in Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) said that consideration has been given to extending the Charity Commission's work to Scotland where the same legal arguments might apply. I shall consider that matter in the light of what has been said tonight. I am grateful to the hon. Member for adding to my knowledge of the history of these proposals. I was not aware that the inadvertent adding of a nought had been carried through into the legislation. I am delighted that there is at least that result of the deliberations of the Northern Ireland Assembly in which he was engaged.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Charities (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 29th April, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.