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Charity Regulation

Volume 736: debated on Thursday 20 July 2023

The Charity Commission performs an important and effective function as the independent registrar and regulator of charities in England and Wales. The commission’s annual report and accounts for 2022-23 provide a detailed analysis of the its performance and effectiveness. Charity law and regulation is of course devolved in both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

My question is about Arts Council England, which is of course a registered charity. A senior employee there recently won a tribunal claim for harassment on account of her gender-critical beliefs. In the course of the hearing, it became evident that there was considerable homophobic bias among some staff at Arts Council England, who did not wish the Arts Council to give grants to projects initiated by LGB groups unless those groups accepted gender identity ideology. There was evidence that an LGB charity had been described by Arts Council employees as a “cancer” and “neo-Nazi”. What is the Minister doing to tackle the climate of prejudice and bias that has been exposed at Arts Council England, a charity that dispenses over £950 million of public money per annum?

I hope the hon. and learned Lady knows that I take all forms of discrimination extremely seriously, and there should be no place for that. She raises an individual case. The Arts Council does not come under my portfolio, but I will happily speak to my ministerial colleagues about that and ensure that we write to her with an answer.

My question is about the regulation of charities, following on from the question asked by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry). Does my right hon. Friend the Minister read Private Eye? If he does, he will have seen the saga of the Actors’ Benevolent Fund, where it appears that the people who did right have been put out and the people who did wrong, over and over again, have been supported by the Charity Commission. Could he say to the Charity Commission that people in Parliament are watching this with some surprise?

Of course the Charity Commission is an independent body, but I have regular meetings with it. I am not a regular reader of Private Eye, but I will make sure that I seek out that article ahead of my next meeting with the Charity Commission.