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Written Statements

Volume 586: debated on Wednesday 22 October 2014

Written Statements

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Cabinet Office

Protection of Charities Bill (Draft)

I wish to inform the House of the publication in draft of the Protection of Charities Bill, for pre-legislative scrutiny.

Charities are at the heart of our civil society, performing many vital functions for the benefit of others, often the most needy or vulnerable. The proposed changes in the draft Protection of Charities Bill will support the overwhelming majority of charities and the hundreds of thousands of people who volunteer as charity trustees, by protecting public trust and confidence in charities and their effective regulation by the Charity Commission. While the vast majority of charities are doing vital and often inspirational work, there is a very small minority who seek to abuse charity. It is important that the regulator has the right tools to ensure effective regulation.

The draft Bill contains provisions that would extend the powers of the Charity Commission to effectively regulate the charity sector. It follows a public consultation on a range of measures, proposed by the Charity Commission itself, the majority of which have been taken forward in the draft Bill. Consultation feedback has helped refine the proposals and a summary of consultation feedback has been published alongside the draft Bill.

We are publishing the Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny in order to ensure that Parliament can review the scope and extent of the Charity Commission’s regulatory powers before we seek to legislate. The Government look forward to the conclusions and recommendations arising from pre-legislative scrutiny.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Gifting of Equipment (Afghanistan)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has today laid a departmental minute proposing a gift to the Government of Afghanistan.

The UK is committed to developing counter-terrorism capability in Afghanistan in furtherance of the Government’s counter-terrorism (CT) objectives under CONTEST. As part of this approach, the UK assists key partner nations to develop effective and sustainable counter-terrorism capabilities which operate in line with agreed international human rights standards. By helping countries to undertake CT activities locally, it targets the problem at source and reduces the risk of a terrorist attack against that nation or another.

Afghanistan remains a top priority for the Government. Post 2014 it will remain one of the poorest and most insecure countries in the world. We remain concerned that terrorist groups based in the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) are re-establishing a presence in Afghanistan, and that the threat to the UK mainland will not decrease in the short term.

We have been running three projects which aim to develop the capability of operational units within the Afghan national security forces (ANSF) to tackle the Afghan insurgency by conducting human rights compliant CT operations. As part of these projects the MOD procured equipment over a number of years from 2009 to use with Afghan units. The equipment is currently in Afghanistan.

The proposal is for the MOD to gift the equipment to the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Ministry of Interior (MOI) to allow these units to continue to reduce the terrorist threat once international security assistance forces withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of 2014. The package of gifting and training will provide the ANSF with a valuable and sustainable capability to deal with the threat.

The original total cost was approximately £6 million, and an approximate estimate of the current value is £0.4 million.

The proposed gift has been assessed and approved against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria. The projects, including information on the equipment to be procured, were approved by the cross-HMG programme boards, which confirmed that they fit with the Government’s strategic and delivery objectives. MOD officials also assessed the projects in 2013 for human rights risks using the overseas security and justice assistance guidelines.

The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle. If, during the period of 14 parliamentary sitting days beginning on the date on which the minute was laid, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a parliamentary question or of a motion in relation to the minute, or by otherwise raising the matter in the House, final approval of the gift will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.

Leader of the House

Explanatory Notes for Bills and Acts: Pilot Scheme

The Armed Forces (Service Complaints and Financial Assistance) Bill [Lords] has been passed by the House of Lords and was introduced in this House yesterday. The accompanying explanatory notes to this Bill pilot a new format which is easier to navigate and works better with online content. The notes now include:

A table of contents

A grid showing the application of each part of the Bill to each part of the United Kingdom

A shoulder note to the explanation of each clause and schedule showing the application of the provision to each part of the United Kingdom

An explanation of both the policy and legal backgrounds, along with a summary of the existing law

An explanation of the financial implications of the Bill and of the need for a money resolution

Links to relevant policy documents

An explanation of how the measures in the Bill will be commenced

The new format follows on from a review of explanatory notes which was conducted by the Cabinet Office and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel as part of the Good Law project. In support of this work officials met with a variety of stakeholders and conducted an online survey which obtained views from within and beyond Parliament. The results of this survey have been placed in the Library of the House.

A full evaluation of this pilot will be conducted following its completion and any feedback on the new format should be delivered to my office or to goodlaw@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk.