Religion and law round-up – 31st May

A week in which the election of the boss of association football’s international trade cartel generated rather more media interest than the election of Pope Francis ever did…

The Queen’s Speech

There was quite a lot of interest in the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday – as much for what was omitted as for what was included. Apart from the obvious issue of the in-out EU referendum, probably the most important items for religious organisations were the following:

  • The ‘protection of charities’ proposals in the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill were largely inspired by the Cup Trust case and were the subject of considerable pre-legislative scrutiny in the last Parliament. Their purpose is to strengthen the Charity Commission’s ability to act in cases where it suspects abusive behaviour by trustees and/or managers by directing that a charity be closed down after an inquiry, issuing official warnings to charities and, in certain circumstances, by disqualifying any person deemed unfit to continue as a charity trustee or to serve in a position of influence within the charity. The social investment provisions, suggested by the Law Commission in its report of September 2014, are intended to clarify the powers of trustees – currently in doubt – to make investments that pursue both a financial and a social return.
  • The Scotland Bill will devolve further powers to the Scottish Parliament, including control over income tax, air passenger duty and borrowing.
  • The Extremism Bill will extend the powers of Government and law enforcement agencies to tackle what they perceive as extremism. In particular, it will provide for:

    • Banning Orders: a new power for the Home Secretary to ban extremist groups.
    • Extremism Disruption Orders: a new power for law enforcement to stop individuals engaging in extremist behaviour.
    • Closure Orders: a new power for law enforcement and local authorities to close down premises used to support extremism.

At the time of writing, the only Government Bills on the parliamentary web site were the  Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill [Lords], the European Union Referendum Bill, the Scotland Bill and the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill (carried over from the 2014-15 session as provided for by the carry-over motion of 29 April 2014: HC Hansard 29 Apr 2014 Col 771).

The results of the ballot for private Peers’ bills 2015-16 are here.

As to the “British Bill of Rights, the Gracious Speech included the commitment that “My Government will bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights”; but whether that was a promise of proposals for consultation or of an actual Bill (whether substantive or in draft for formal pre-legislative scrutiny) is not clear. Continue reading