Government plans to create a Charities Bill and expand the Dormant Assets Scheme have been revealed in the Queen’s Speech.
The new laws aim to “support the voluntary sector by reducing unnecessary bureaucracy and releasing additional funds for good causes” said the Queen.
The Charities Bill aims to “address a range of issues in charity law which hamper charities’ day to day activities”, according to documents published by the government to accompany the Queen’s Speech, which outline the government’s legislative blueprint for the year.
The Bill aims to implement the majority of recommendations in the Law Commission’s 2017 report Technical Issues in Charity Law.
Ensuring charities can amend their governing documents more easily and have more flexibility on the advice they receive when selling land, are among measures set to be included in the
Removing legal barriers to charity mergers “when a merger is in their best interests” will also be included in the Charities Bill.
Meanwhile, a Dormant Assets Bill will be introduced which expands the Dormant Assets Scheme into the insurance and pensions, investment and wealth management and securities sectors.
This aims to unlock £880m in funding for social and environmental good causes.
According to the government the main benefits of the bill also include “protecting dormant asset owners and participating businesses while putting assets lying idle from a wider range of financial sectors to good use”.
It also aims to deliver on commitments “to expand the (Dormant Assets) Scheme and maintain strong, voluntary engagement with a broad range of industry participants”.
Charity sector reaction
NCVO public affairs manager Chris Walker said that the Charities Bill “will be helpful in simplifying many technical aspects of charity law, and we look forward to seeing the bill progress”
He also notes that the government rejected recommendations to review appeal rights to the Charity Tribunal “and to allow parties to appeal directly to the courts when seeking authorisation for charitable proceedings”.
Walker added that under plans to expand the Dormant Assets Scheme “it’s likely to take a few years before any new money starts to come in, even once the legislation has been passed”.
Elsewhere, environmental campaigner Miles King has warned the charity sector to be vigilant of amendments to the Charities Bill, that could see MPs introduce a “clause to prevent charities causing annoyance”.
King’s assertion has been described as “an interesting possibility” by charity lawyer Shivajji Shiva, who is a partner at VWV in Birmingham.
nothing too concerning there. But: introduce a charity bill & the risk is that either the Govt introduces amendments itself, or gets backbenchers to do so - eg on their favourite culture war topics like political activity. Perhaps a clause to prevent charities causing annoyance?— Miles King (@MilesKing10) May 11, 2021