HL Deb 23 November 1988 vol 502 c102WA
Baroness Faithful

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether in the light of the recommendations of the Woodfield Report he will make an announcement on the future of the Official Custodian for Charities.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

The role of the Official Custodian was reviewed by Sir Philip Woodfield as part of his Efficiency Scrutiny of the Supervision of Charities. Sir Philip questioned whether the Official Custodian's investment services were still needed. He recognised, however, that divesting the Official Custodian might be a complex and difficult job and that it might not be possible to dispense with his services altogether. He therefore recommended that the possibilities be studied in more detail by a firm of outside consultants.

The consultants' report set out a number of options including full divestment. We have carefully considered these options with the Chief Charity Commissioner in the light of the continuing need to protect charity property and of the value of the Official Custodian's services, especially to small charities. Our conclusion is that, in line with the Woodfield Report's emphasis on the need for trustees to take greater responsibility and consistent with the more active supervisory role which is envisaged for the commission, the continuance of the Official Custodian's investment services is no longer justified. The office of the Official Custodian will, however, be retained, and we have no plans to abolish his function in relation to charity land.

The Government will put forward more detailed proposals for divesting the Official Custodian in the White Paper due to be published early next year. In the meantime the Charity Commission will be considering, with interested parties, how divestment can best be achieved and how long it will take.