Skip to main content

Written Answers

Volume 712: debated on Friday 10 July 2009

Written Answers

Friday 10 July 2009

Charity Commission

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Baroness Crawley on 29 June (WA 3–5) and 1 July (WA 46–7), how the Charity Commission's policy of leaving disputes between trustees to resolution by those trustees, after advice by the commission, operates in a case where only one of the opposing groups of trustees is in control as a result of elections which can be challengeable as fraudulent. [HL4825]

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Baroness Crawley on 29 June (WA 3–5) and 1 July (WA 46–7) that the Charity Commission's decision to take action in a particular case depends upon the issues involved, the risks to the charity and whether its intervention is necessary and proportionate, how the commission defines or otherwise describes what is meant by “necessary” and “proportionate”. [HL4826]

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

Letter from Andrew Hind, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, to Lord Morris of Manchester, dated 7 July 2009.

As the Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, I have been asked to respond to your Written Parliamentary Questions.

Parliamentary Question (HL4825)

From our experience, the deliberate abuse of voting procedures and rights in charity elections is rare. More often, disputes relating to the holding of trustee elections are caused by a lack of attention to governance arrangements. This may be because procedures have not been followed or because the governance arrangements are complex to manage.

In this situation, the various parties should work together to seek a solution for the future. The outcome might include the adoption of new governance arrangements and ensuring that future elections are fair and transparent, perhaps by the appointment of an independent election supervisor.

If an “opposing group” remained unhappy with the situation, it could consider what other options were available to it. This would depend upon:

the constitutional framework of the charity; for instance, is it a membership charity?

the provisions in the charity's governing document; is there a disputes clause or other relevant provision?

its own position in relation to the charity; are the members of the opposing group also members of the charity or do they have some other constitutional role?

As mentioned in my answer to a previous question, mediation can be a quick and cost effective way to resolve a dispute. This includes allegations of election abuse or other irregularities.

Parliamentary Question (HL4826)

The answers to the previous Questions were given in the context of a dispute or serious disagreement in a charity. The commission will become involved with a charity in these circumstances only where it has a clear role. This will usually be only:

if there are no validly appointed trustees; and

all other methods of resolving the dispute have failed.

If there were substantial concerns about the validity of trustee appointments, we would expect those running the charity to put the situation right. If this was not possible then it might be necessary for the commission to become involved. In certain circumstances we can, for example, use our powers to appoint new trustees.

Taking into account the principles of good regulation, we ensure that we are proportionate in all that we do. This means that we focus our priorities and resources where we believe our intervention as regulator can make most difference to charities and the people who benefit from them. In the context of a charity dispute, we would consider the following factors in assessing whether it was appropriate and proportionate to take action:

the particular circumstances;

the seriousness and scale of the problem;

the level of risk to the charity (activities, beneficiaries, property or reputation):

available evidence; and

likelihood of a successful outcome.

We might conclude that we could use commission resources elsewhere to greater effect in the public interest, and that we should not take regulatory action.

Our experience is that this type of situation is best solved by those involved in the dispute, using mediation if necessary. A solution imposed from outside, be it by the commission or another stakeholder, may not have the same chance of long term success.

I hope this clarifies the position.

Employment: Redundancy

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Young of Norwood Green on 24 June (WA 283–5), by how much the statutory cost of a redundancy payment of £6,650 to an individual aged 50, with 15 years' service in the private sector and earning £25,000 is exceeded by a similar case of redundancy of someone working in the civil service. [HL4804]

I refer the noble Lord to the reply that Lord Young gave him on 24 June (Official Report, col. WA 284.)

Gurkhas

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether Gurkhas who served prior to 1997 receive education and medical treatment for dependants once they have retired, as provided for by the Fifth Indian Pay Code for Indian Gorkhas. [HL4802]

The British Army Gurkha Pension Scheme (GPS) is based on the Indian Army pension code. This arrangement stems from the terms and conditions of service that supported the Tripartite Agreement of 1947 between Nepal, India and the UK.

The GPS does not include specific provision for the education or medical treatment of retired Gurkhas' dependants, although it does pay a family pension to surviving dependants of deceased pensioners. In 2000 the rates of pension paid under the scheme were doubled, in recognition that the Indian Army pension scheme provides benefits in kind to members, such as medical facilities, that could not be replicated by the UK Government in Nepal.

The work of the Gurkha Welfare Trust also makes a significant contribution in the area of medical and educational provision. Among the objects of the trust are the advancement of the education of Gurkhas and their dependants and the provision of medical diagnosis and treatment of Gurkhas and their dependants. The trust provides free primary healthcare for all Gurkha veterans in Nepal. Free secondary healthcare is also provided for all those not in receipt of a service pension and subsidised by 70 per cent of the cost for those who are.

Although the Gurkha Welfare Trust is independent of the Ministry of Defence, the department gives just over £1 million annually to the trust in order to contribute to the administrative costs of its field arm operating in Nepal, the Gurkha Welfare Scheme.

Olympic Games 2012: Equestrian Events

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether any trees will be dug up and transplanted in order to enable the 2012 Olympic equestrian events to be staged in Greenwich Park. [HL4601]

The Royal Parks is responsible for the trees within Greenwich Park. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games is responsible for staging the 2012 events in the park. There are no plans to dig up and transplant trees. The course for the cross-country equestrian event, to take place for only one day of competition, is being sensitively designed and developed on the basis of an arboricultural assessment.

Roads: Motorways and A Roads

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the safety of Britain's motorways and A roads. [HL4783]

In 2008, one person was killed or seriously injured on Britain's motorways per 100 million motor vehicle kilometres travelled. By comparison, 6.1 people were killed or seriously injured on our A roads per 100 million motor vehicle kilometres. The equivalent figure for roads of other types is 7.5.

In developing our new road safety strategy for the period from 2010, we have provided funding to the Road Safety Foundation, which has made an assessment of the risk of serious and fatal collisions on our motorways and A roads per kilometre travelled. This approach helps to identify individual stretches of roads which are of relatively high risk and so focus the attention of highway authorities and police on those routes which most need their attention. This information can be found at http://www.eurorap.org/.

We propose, under the new strategy, to continue to provide support for the foundation to identify the riskiest routes in this way.

Transport: Tram Trains

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they propose to sign a contract for the operation of the tram-train on the Penistone line. [HL4818]

The Government are in discussions with Northern and Network Rail about the operation of a tram-train trial on the Penistone line and expect to make an announcement in due course.