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Charity Commission: Information

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2009

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many requests for communications data were made by the Charity Commission to communication service providers (CSPs) under the Charities Act 1993 in (a) 2000, (b) 2001, (c) 2002, (d) 2003, (e) 2004, (f) 2005, (g) 2006, (h) 2007 and (i) 2008; and how many of these requests resulted in the requested communications data being disclosed by the relevant CSP. (284873)

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Charity Commission. I have asked the Commission to reply.

Letter from Andrew Hind, dated July 2009:

As the Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, I have been asked to respond to your written Parliamentary Question on requests for communications data made by the Charity Commission to communication service providers under the Charities Act 1993.

Section 9 of the Charities Act (1993) provides the Charity Commission with the power to require anyone who has information which is relevant to the discharge of any of the Commission’s functions to provide us with that information. This power extends to relevant documents. The Charity Commission also has a specific power, when we are conducting an inquiry, to require the production of accounts, statements in writing, written answers to questions, and copy documents from anyone who is able to provide them (section 8 of the Charities Act).

To date the Commission has not kept statistics on the use of these powers to obtain communications data from communication service providers. However, since the enactment of the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act (RIPA) in 2000, it has been the general practice for regulators, such as the Charity Commission, and communications service providers to exchange information under RIPA requirements. Since 2000, the Charity Commission has used the RIPA to obtain communications data eight times:

(a) 2000 nil

(b) 2001 nil

(c) 2002 nil

(d) 2003 nil

(e) 2004 2 times

(f) 2005 3 times

(g) 2006 nil

(h) 2007 3 times

(i) 2008 nil

On all of these occasions the requests for communications data was acceded to by the service provider.

In all cases the information obtained was used to progress our statutory investigations. We only use these powers when absolutely necessary and in the most serious of cases. Their use is always authorised at a senior level within the Commission.

I hope this is helpful. A senior member of the Commission’s Compliance team would be very happy to discuss this aspect of our work with you if that would be useful.