The briefing note reproduced below was issued by the Home Office in 1995 following a meeting with the then Minister of State at the Home Office, Baroness Blatch, attended by Ann Mason for the Morris Federation and Brian Hopkins for the Open Morris. The Morris Ring representative was stuck on a train and arrived late! Good old Railtrack . . .
There was also some subsequent discussion with the Home Office's (then) Head of Charity Law, Frank Smith. The discussions and the note were in the context of a wide-ranging consultation about the implementation of the Charities Act 1992, Part III, which at the date of writing, has still not been brought into force.
It is understood that the note was circulated to all Morris Ring, Morris Federation and Open Morris members in 1995.
It is reproduced here following discussion in March 1999 on the Morris Dance Discussion List of difficulties encountered by UK morris teams in making collections at performances and at the request of officers of the Morris Ring. It is for the information of all those who are interested, as is, and without warranty of any kind.
A briefing note by the Home Office Voluntary Services Unit
This briefing note explains the present and proposed law in relation to public charitable collections, and comments in general terms on how that may be relevant to morris dancing. It is, however, the responsibility of those concerned in an individual case to consider how the law may apply to their particular circumstances and, if appropriate, to seek the necessary authority.
Under the present legislation, the Police, Factories Etc. (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1916, local authorities have the power to make regulations controlling collections made in any street or public place, for charitable or other purposes. Where such regulations have been made under lie Charitable Collections (Transitional Provisions) Order 1974 a licence would be required anyway. Such regulations would set out the local authority's requirements for the manner in which collections are carried out the method of counting the funds collected and the publishing of the accounts. They would also require the promoter of a collection to apply for a licence for all street collections which are undertaken.
Such provisions would not apply to a 'public meeting'. Morris dancing may possibly take place during a public meeting, but we doubt that morris dancing in a public place would automatically qualify in this way.
Part III of the Charities Act 1992, not yet in force, and regulations made under section 73 will replace the existing legislation governing both street and house to house collections with a single, simplified, regulatory framework. This will require the promoter of a public charitable collection to obtain a permit from the local authority in whose area the collection is to be held, to account to that authority for any funds which he or she subsequently raises and also makes it an offence to organise such a collection without a permit. The process of obtaining a permit will be very similar to the current arrangements for street collections where promoters apply to their local authority for a licence to collect.
Section 65 of the Act defines a public charitable collection as a charitable appeal to members of the public to give money or other property which is made in association with a representation that the whole or any part of its proceeds is to be applied for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes.
Part III will govern collections for charitable purposes which are held in streets and other public places, including places to which the public has access during the time of the appeal, otherwise than on payment or by virtue of the permission of the owner given for the purpose of the appeal. Thus it regulates those collections which take place in certain areas which are technically private, but to which the public have access, for example the concourse or forecourt of a railway station or privately owned shopping centre. However, for collections on private land, no permit will be required if the public has paid to get in, or is allowed access only because the owner gives his permission for the event to be held there.
No date has yet been set for bringing Part III into force. Before doing so we are concerned to ensure that we have considered the relevant practical issues, which is wily we issued a consultation document on Public Charitable Collections in July 1994, requesting responses by the end of that year. Comments have been received from a number of morris dance groups and will indeed be taken into account before decisions are reached.
Whether under the existing law or Part III of the Charities Act 1992, the first question to be considered is whether a relevant collection is proposed to take place. If a collection is expressly for charity, or for other charitable or similar purposes, then the law described above is likely to apply.
If, however, the collection is not described as being for any kind of charitable or similar purpose but is instead an invitation to the audience to contribute towards the expenses of the performance, then the collection may well not come within those provisions (even if, subsequently, the performers decide to give a part of the money they have raised to charity). However, those responsible must consider the particular circumstances that apply in their individual case.
Where collections are to be made for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes in more than one local authority area then Part III of the 1992 Act, when in force, will have the advantage of applying the same regulations in all areas.
Where appropriate, legal advice should be obtained by those concerned as to how the law applies to a particular case. The Charity Commission operates a helpline on charity fund-raising, 0870 333 0123
Further enquiries in relation to this briefing note may be addressed to the Charity Law Section, Home Office Voluntary Services Unit, Room 1371, 50 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AT.