A bid to remove current exemption of ecclesiastical charities from laws governing charitable organisations failed last week.

Amendments by Tanya August-Hanson were tabled to the Charities Registration and Regulation Bill in the Legislative Council.

But members voted against after concluding they would effectively mean a change in policy and that should be a matter for elected MHKs to decide, or a wider debate.

The debate had already been delayed by a week, after Ms August-Hanson only signalled her intention to table amendments on the eve of the relevant sitting.

The bill aims to create a modern register of Manx charities and at the same time increase the amount of information required to become registered as a Manx charity.

Organisations must prove a genuine connection to the island to be registered as a Manx charity.

Attorney General John Quinn said it would ’ensure that the island has a modern system in place for the registration and regulation of charities, thus enabling the public, on whom funding for charities depends, to retain confidence in the Manx charitable sector’.

The bill was mainly a technical updating, he said, and during a consultation period in advance, there had been no suggestion that the exemption granted to ecclesiastical charities - that exists under current law - should be removed.

Hidden consequences

Mr Quinn said the effect of Ms August-Hanson’s amendment would require any exemption under the auspices of the Religious Charities Regulations and therefore would not make any material change to the position of charities.

But Bishop Peter Eagles warned there could be hidden consequences of the changes to the regulations and that the need to register under the new charities law would increase workloads.

’Subjecting ecclesiastical charities to regulation under the bill would, in nearly all cases, serve only to duplicate financial controls which already apply to them under church legislation,’ he said.

Several MLCs said that while they had sympathy with the principle behind Ms August-Hanson’s amendments, they too were concerned about knock-on effects and also that it should be a matter for either Tynwald to decide at a policy level, or for the elected House of Keys to consider during consideration of the bill.

Bill Henderson said: ’I do not think we should be getting involved in a wider policy debate here. I feel if there are issues there we have flagged it up sufficiently here and it will be raised in the other place by the popularly elected members who can discuss that policy.’

Ms August-Hanson insisted: ’There would be no change if these amendments would go through. Again, it is simply laying groundwork for debate.’

Third reading

However, MLCs voted against by six votes to three, with only David Cretney and Marlene Maska supporting Ms August-Hanson.

The upper chamber also voted to suspend standing orders and take the third reading of the bill, which means it is now ready to go to the House of Keys for consideration.