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Northern Ireland Charities Act to be amended

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Northern Ireland Charities Act to be amended

Governance | Gareth Jones | 1 Nov 2010

The Department for Social Development in Northern Ireland has confirmed it is to amend the Charities Act (2008) due to problems with the drafting of the public benefit requirement.

Following discussions, the minister for social development in the province Alex Atwood decided last week to proceed with amendments to the primary legislation, in line with the wishes of the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland.

In the mean time, the Department is planning provisional regulations to allow the CCNI to regulate existing charities registered with HMRC until its own register can be created.

In a statement, the CCNI said: “The amendment will clarify the law and allow the Commission to issue new guidance and begin registration.

“The draft Bill will soon be referred to the Northern Ireland Executive and then, if approved, introduced to the NI Assembly. A process of passing primary legislation will then begin.

“It is not clear at this stage how long the process will take.”

Lack of clarity

The changes will deal with inconsistency in the framing of the public benefit requirement, due to the use of a combination of the English and Scottish frameworks as a template.

A spokesman for the CCNI said a hybrid of the two was used because a definition of charitable purpose didn’t exist in English law, only in common law, so that section was taken from the Scottish legislation.

This led to a lack of clarity of whether Northern Irish charities should be assessed on their aims, in line with the English legislation, or their activities, as in Scotland.

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