HC Deb 15 December 1998 vol 322 c466W
Mr. Chaytor

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will list the Charity Commissioners, indicating the term of office of each; [63552]

(2) to whom the Charity Commissioners are accountable; and what plans he has to reform their lines of accountability. [63553]

Mr. Boateng

In accordance with Schedule 1 of the Charities Act 1993, the Home Secretary is responsible for the appointment of the Charity Commissioners. There are a maximum of five Charity Commissioners: the Chief Charity Commissioner is Head of the Department and Accounting Officer; there is a full-time Legal Commissioner; and three part-time Commissioners, one of whom must be legally qualified.

The Chief Charity Commissioner is Richard Fries, who was appointed on 1 June 1992 for a period of five years. This appointment was extended until 1 June 1999 with effect from 1 June 1997. The full-time Legal Commissioner is Michael Carpenter, appointed on 1 January 1998 until 7 October 2002. The part-time Commissioners are John Bonds, appointed on 1 January 1995 until 31 December 1997, extended to 31 December 1999; Jean Warburton (the other Legal Commissioner), appointed on 1 October 1996 until 30 September 2001; and Julia Unwin appointed from 1 May 1998 until 30 April 2001.

Whilst the Home Secretary is accountable to Parliament for the efficiency of the Charity Commission, his powers do not extend to investigating the Commission's decisions in particular cases. The Commission is a non-ministerial Government Department, accountable to the courts for its legal decisions. In exercising its powers under charity law, it functions in a quasi-judicial way and is not subject to Ministerial direction. In these matters it acts as an extension of the High Court and its decisions are subject to appeal to the courts. There are no plans to reform their lines of accountability.