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Charity Commissioners

Volume 977: debated on Thursday 31 January 1980

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6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when last he met the chief Charity Commissioner.

My right hon. Friend has not yet had occasion to meet the chief Charity Commissioner, but I met him last September.

When will the Home Office respond to the Select Committee, which reported five years ago, in view of the alleged patent abuse of charity law by the Rossminster Group of Companies, the public schools and institutions such as the London clinic? The all-party Select Committee commented on that abuse. When will the Government say what their views are on this matter? When the Home Secretary next meets the commissioner will he tell him to stop harassing Oxfam and Christian Aid, preventing those charities from carrying out their proper duties? Will the Home Secretary—as recommended by the Select Committee—ask the Charity Commission to survey those charities that are abusing the law?

As my right hon. Friend said in reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) on 24 January, the pro- posals made by the Expenditure Committee and the Goodman committee have to be viewed in the light of the Government's current policies. We have considered the existing system against this background and, in the light of the recommendations of these committees, we believe that it works adequately. I should add that the Goodman committee made quite clear its view that deprivation of charitable status should not be used as a way of attacking private education.

Is it not a worrying development that the Charity Commission, and ultimately the courts, have ruled in the case of one sector of the Strict Brethren that it is not a religion? Should not a decision such as that be left to the views of honest believers rather than being taken either by administrative civil servants or the courts?

It is not the job of my right hon. Friend to make decisions about the verdicts of the Charity Commissioners. They are subject to the courts. I believe that that is a much better way of dealing with it.