The Queen's Speech at the opening of the Westminster Parliament in June announced a draft Protection of Charities Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to"create a fairer society by better protecting charities from abuse". A number of additional powers are to be given to the charity regulator (in this case, the Charity Commission for England and Wales) in order to tackle abuse within the charity sector. The draft Bill is intended only to extend to England and Wales, as charity regulation in Scotland is a devolved matter which is governed from Holyrood, but there could be some knock-on consequences which will have effect in Scotland.
One point which is expected to be covered in the Bill is an extension to the Charity Commission's powers to disqualify someone from acting as a charity trustee and which were felt to be too narrow. Similar provisions exist in the Scottish legislation. Sections 69 and 70 of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 set out the categories of people that are disqualified in Scotland from acting as charity trustees. The list includes:-
- Persons convicted of an offence of dishonesty or an offence under the 2005 Act itself
- Undischarged bankrupts
- Persons removed by OSCR or by the courts from the position of charity trustee
- Persons disqualified from acting as company directors
Included in these categories are people who have been disqualified by the Charity Commission from acting as a charity trustee on certain grounds. If the powers of the Charity Commission are extended then this could, by default, mean a widening of the category of disqualified trustees in Scotland too. This is likely to be of greatest impact in relation to cross-border charities, although the effect will not be confined to cross-border charities.
The draft Bill is expected to be published once the Government has completed its review of a consultation which took place late last year and the intention is to legislate"as soon as parliamentary time allows".