An appeal to the Charity Commission

At this time of goodwill to all men, I would like to re-post here an appeal to the charity commission which was made through the pages of the Daily Telegraph - hat tip to  Conservative Home for pointing it out.

You don't have to be a religious believer to agree that members of many faith groups, of whatever religion, work hard for their local communities and do a lot of good.

This certainly applies to the Christian Brethren, who I have always found to be very dedicated, selfless and sincere individuals.

This is what 53 MPs wrote to the Telegraph about the treatment by the Charity Commission of a Christian Brethren church in Devon

“SIR – The 1601 Charitable Uses Act passed by Elizabeth I allowed for four kinds of charity: relief of poverty; advancement of education; advancement of religion; and "other purposes beneficial to the community". This definition worked for over 400 years, until the Charities Act 2006. The 2006 Act replaced the old law with a "public benefit" test. The Government should review this test, because it is vague and has led to severe difficulties.
Currently, the 2006 Act is being used by officials in the Charity Commission to deny charitable status to a small Christian church hall. This hall is a community venue in Devon, used for worship by a Brethren congregation. Under the 2006 Act, the commission has forced the Brethren congregation to appeal their case at a formal tribunal, costing them hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees.
Many other small religious groups –including the Druid Network, the World Zoroastrian Organisation, and the Lambeth Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses – have had no problem in obtaining charitable status. Why have the Christian Brethren been singled out in this way?
There should be an urgent review into how this decision was made and whether there was a level playing field. The Christian Brethren were persecuted by the Nazis during the Second World War. This makes it all the more important for Britain – which has a proud tradition of religious tolerance – not to single out the Brethren.
We urge the new Chairman of the Charity Commission to stop this tribunal, and to review this unjust decision. If the 2006 Charities Act has now become a quagmire, trapping faith communities, then clearly it needs a major overhaul.”
  • Robert Halfon MP
  • Priti Patel MP
  • Alun Cairns MP
  • Charlie Elphicke MP
  • Fiona Bruce MP
  • Graham Brady MP
  • Richard Harrington MP
  • Paul Maynard MP
  • John Glen MP
  • David Burrowes MP
  • Daniel Kawczynski MP
  • Andrew Bridgen MP
  • Andrew Percy MP
  • Andrew Rosindell MP
  • Brian Binley MP
  • Chris Heaton-Harris MP
  • Chris Skidmore MP
  • David Amess MP
  • David Nuttall MP
  • David Ruffley MP
  • Dominic Raab MP
  • Edward Leigh MP
  • Guto Bubb MP
  • Jack Le Presti MP
  • Jackie Doyle-Price MP
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg MP
  • James Morris MP
  • Karl McCartney MP
  • Mark Spencer MP
  • Martin Vickers MP
  • Nadhim Zahawi MP
  • Neil Carmichael MP
  • Nick De Bois MP
  • Nigel Mills MP
  • Peter Aldous MP
  • Philip Hollobone MP
  • Richard Bacon MP
  • Robert Buckland MP
  • Roger Gale MP
  • Dr Sarah Wollaston MP
  • Stephen McPartland MP
  • Stephen Metcalfe MP
  • Steve Baker MP
  • Steve Barclay MP
  • Stewart Jackson MP


Anonymous said…
The "public benefit" test brought in because too many organisations were abusing the regulations; including many purely political organisations. The 'test' is hardly unreasonable.

Chris Whiteside said…
The problem is not that there is a public interest test, it is how it is working.

The existence of some form of public interest test is entirely reasonable but if the current wording is too vague and leading to difficulties, then it should be reviewed and if necessary revised.

We do need to prevent abuse. The measures designed to prevent abuse should cause the mimimum problem for those who are not abusing the system.
Anonymous said…
Is the ESA testing going to be reviewed and revised then?
Chris Whiteside said…
This thread was about the tests used by the charity commission to establish whether an organisation should have charitable status.

Whether these tests are working properly is therefore not directly relevant to whether the tests introduced by the last Labour government for eligibility to receive the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), (which is what they renamed what used to be called Incapacity Benefit) are working properly.

But the answer to your question is that these tests, introduced by Labour, were in fact reviewed by the present government when they came into office.

The coalition government did ask Professor Malcolm Harrington to lead an independent review into ESA and recommend improvements. A year later, Harrington suggested many sensible changes that were accepted.

It is felt in many quarters that there needs to be more progress in rolling out those changes. And I appreciate that there is still a lot of controversy about these tests and how they are working. I cannot speak for DWP but I suspect that this area may have to be looked at again.

Popular posts from this blog

Nick Herbert on his visit to flood hit areas of Cumbria

Quotes of the day 19th August 2020

Quote of the day 24th July 2020