William Shawcross has said that if the self-regulation of fundraising cannot be sorted out then the Charity Commission could do it - if the government provided it with extra resources.
The chair of the Charity Commission (pictured), told The Times that should Sir Stuart Etherington’s review of fundraising self-regulation find that the current system doesn’t work, the government would “have to consider” passing that responsibility to the regulator.
"We must await Stuart Etherington's report, but if he concludes that self-regulation by charities cannot work, then government would have to consider whether the Charity Commission should regulate fundraising."
This morning the Charity Commission clarified Shawcross' position with regard to regulating fundraising.
Shawcross said: “That would need legislation and extra resources, but we could do it if we had to. However, I hope that, pushed by the existing public outcry and by Stuart's inquiry, charities can put their own house in order".
RSPCA conduct 'grotesque'
Shawcross singled out the RSPCA as a example of an organisation that has lost sight of its original purposes.
Shawcross also explicitly mentioned the RSPCA in a response to a question about charities becoming overly politicised. Shawcross said that some of its recent conduct had been “grotesque” and accused some of the organisation’s new trustees of being “radical”.
“It’s a wonderful organisation that has a great deal of affection, and it should have, but I think it hasn’t been run and governed as well as it should have been in the last few years,” he said. “I think their zeal for prosecutions has been unfortunate in some cases.
“Their opposition to the badger cull was unfortunate, when we thought they overstepped the mark politically. They have elected radical trustees, one of whom said farming is like the Holocaust, which perhaps isn’t a frightfully good way to run an animal organisation”.
David Canavan, acting chief executive of the RSPCA said: “Only recently, we had a positive meeting with very senior representatives of the Charity Commission where they welcomed our response to their concerns. They were also pleased with the thorough work we are carrying out in responding to the recommendations of the Wooler review into our prosecution activity”.
Shawcross also said that “Syria has changed everything,” when it comes to regulating Muslim charities.
“Syria has changed everything,” Mr Shawcross says. “There are about 200 new British charities operating there... it would obviously be a matter of huge concern if money collected off the street was being diverted to terrorist-related causes.
“We are not targeting Muslim charities unfairly or disproportionately in any way whatsoever, nor should we, nor would we. We look at all allegations of abuse in charities, whether they are Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or whatever…
“Muslims are not victims they are a very important part of the world and the victim culture is completely misplaced”.
Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said: “The government should be looking at how to strengthen Muslim charities to provide the moderate and anti-extremist leadership that is needed, particularly amongst younger Muslims.
"Finger-pointing and lecturing communities rarely succeed but working with the leaders of such communities often does. Muslim charities are well placed to play that important role and should be supported by the government and the Charity Commission”.
Dr Hany El-Banna, chair of the Muslim Charities Forum, said: “The only way we are going to build trust amongst donors, stakeholders and government departments, is by continuing to learn how charities work and by improving governance and transparency.
"We feel that there is still a lot for the Charity Commission and the wider public to learn about the contribution of the Muslim community British society, which was recently mentioned by the Prime Minister in his Eid message.
"This is something that can only be done with the support of bodies like the Commission along with the contribution of all faiths and cultures, to strengthen the fabric of Britain’s social infrastructure”.
Shawcross 'beguiled' by 'charming Eritrean boy' into signing up for British Red Cross
A paragraph in The Times piece claims that Shawcross “admitted being beguiled into signing up as a donor by a chugger” working for the British Red Cross but does not approve of the practice of doorstep fundraising.
Shawcross said: “I had a charming young Eritrean boy come to my front door for the British Red Cross about a year ago. He was so delightful I gave him some money, but it took ages signing all the forms.”
He also said that charities probably should not be allowed to knock on doors. “In the street I think that’s OK, but they mustn’t be aggressive. The plethora of stories of people being deluged by mailings and harassed by endless telephone calls on behalf of charities is intolerable”.
The PFRA was contacted by Civil Society News for a statement regarding Shawcross’ “chugger” comments. A spokesman for the umbrella body said it would be seeking clarification on the comments from the Commission before issuing any response.
Update: This story has been updated to remove a quote about Muslim charities having a "victim complex" which was incorrectly attributed to Shawcross.