During a debate on the effectiveness of the Charity Commission, the Bishop of St Albans welcomed the Government’s decision to extend exempted charity status to churches and similar charities by a further seven years but raised concerns about the capacity to register exempted organisations when they reach the registration threshold. He called on the Government to ensure that funding was maintained to ensure the Charity Commission could provide high-quality advice and support to charities and sought a specific assurance from the Minister that the Transparency of Lobbying Act would not affect a church’s ability to host hustings and similar events.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I will not reiterate what has already been said about the levels of underfunding of the Charity Commission. There is great concern that the vital work that is going on needs proper support if we are going to develop this very important sector in our country. A number of noble Lords have spoken about the need for proper resourcing.
I want to comment briefly on the group of charities that are described by the Charity Commission as excepted charities. These include not just churches and chapels but charities that provide premises for some types of schools and Scout and Guide groups, and charitable service funds of the Armed Forces. It is very significant and helpful that Her Majesty’s Government have decided to extend exception from registration for a further seven years beyond 31 March 2014. It is unclear whether there are any plans afoot for an orderly transition to registration in the lead-up to 2021. Of course, to some extent inflation will reduce the number of excepted organisations and other charities as they reach that £100,000 registration threshold, but unless some queuing system is agreed in advance, at the end of the seven-year extension there is a real possibility of a logjam. Continue reading “The Bishop of St Albans takes part in debate on the Charity Commission”
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I hope that not too much of what is about to follow will be seen as motherhood and apple pie. Being at the stage of trying to lose some weight, too much apple pie is no good thing, and I have not yet tried motherhood. Those of us who are survivors of the post-Second World War baby boomer generation probably had parents who served in the forces during that war. My own father was a Royal Marine. He rarely spoke of the war in detail, but often commended the courage and generosity of others with whom he had served. A frequent theme was the remarkable generosity of foreign and Commonwealth nationals who came to serve with the British Armed Forces: Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and so on, as well as Polish soldiers and airmen, and of course, then as now, the Gurkhas. This is a remarkable story, and one that we will remember again next year when we commemorate the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli in the First World War. Continue reading “Bishop of Wakefield speaks on Citizenship (Armed Forces) Bill”
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps are being taken to increase the number of people who are registered to vote in the United Kingdom.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, noble Lords will know that churches and the ancillary buildings connected with them are often the places where hustings take place, and indeed are used as polling stations. This is a key way of engaging local people in the democratic process. With the recent passing of the transparency of lobbying Act, will the Minister reassure us that churches and such places will continue to be used and will not be affected by the passing of that Act?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I cannot see any way in which the use of churches as polling stations, and indeed the role of the clergy in encouraging people to do their community and civic duty, will be adversely affected. I very much hope that the church will continue to encourage all those who are part of its community to take a full part in civic, social and political life.
Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support National Voter Registration Day on Wednesday 5 February, which seeks to encourage new, especially young, people to register to vote.
The Bishop of St Albans asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the Church of England is involved in the education of more than 1 million young people and we want to play our part in supporting this. Will Her Majesty’s Government talk with the department to see if, in future, they will write not only to schools but to the 43 statutory diocesan boards of education, many of which employ full-time schools workers, and to dioceses? My diocese has an average of 30 to 40 full-time paid youth workers and many volunteer ones. We would be delighted to use our communication resources to support this sort of initiative.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Government recognise that they alone cannot do everything in this regard. We welcome conversations with all other organisations. I wondered whether the right reverend Prelate was going to promise that the Church of England would give sermons on the subject. Once, when I was a parliamentary candidate, I was taken by a young woman called Liz Barker—the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, as she is now—to the Methodist church in which her father had been a minister. The sermon came as close as possible to suggesting that the congregation might like to vote for me.