Royal Albert Hall bill ‘missed opportunity’ to change governance, say peers

29 Apr 2024 News

Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA-4.0

The Royal Albert Hall has missed an opportunity to make governance changes, according to a special report.

A report from the House of Lords Select Committee on the Royal Albert Hall Bill, appointed last month, highlights potential conflicts of interests and addresses a proposal from the charity to add seats to some of its most lucrative boxes.

The proposal, which would have affected the governance of the charity by increasing the number of privately owned seats at the venue, was withdrawn after opposition from peers. 

Seats owners at the charity are entitled to vote at general meetings and to elect members of its council.

Its trustee board also includes people who own seats, and who are able to make money from the sale of tickets.

The report states: “The Royal Albert Hall plays an iconic part in the life of the nation and there is a strong public interest in ensuring that its governance arrangements are consistent with its charitable status.”

It says these matters should be drawn to the attention of government.

Potential conflict

Though attorney general Victoria Prentis in her report does not object to the bill, she says: “I must, however, express my disappointment that the bill is not more ambitious.”

Prentis highlighted a “potential conflict between the private interests of seat-holding trustees and the corporation’s charitable objects”, which “is of significant concern to the Charity Commission and many well-informed observers”.

“I wrote last year to the president of the corporation to express my disappointment that more had not been done to resolve the conflicts issue in the many years of its existence,” she said.

“I therefore regard the bill as a missed opportunity to effect meaningful change to the arrangements by which the Royal Albert Hall is governed.”

Charity Commission

The report says the Commission wants the Royal Albert Hall to change its governance arrangements, as the trustee board includes people who own seats, and are therefore able to make money from the sale of tickets.

But it says “that an impasse has been reached” as the corporation “is unwilling to make changes to its governance” while the charity regulator “would like to do so but has so far been prevented from taking the matter forward”.

Indeed, former Commission chair Baroness Stowell previously said that “it takes some audacity for the trustees of the Royal Albert Hall to submit a bill requesting more decision-making powers without addressing their unacceptable conflicts of interest policy”.  

Civil Society has contacted the Royal Albert Hall and Charity Commission for comment.

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