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The draft Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 (Consequential Modifications) Order 2006 is made under Section 104 of the Scotland Act, which I have no need to explain to your Lordships. The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 21 April 2005 and received Royal Assent on 1 June 2005. The Act establishes a body, Bord na Gàidhlig, which I will now call the new bord, to promote the use and understanding of the Gaelic language.
The 2005 Act requires the bord to submit to the Scottish Ministers for approval, at least every five years, a national Gaelic language plan. That plan must include strategies for promoting the use and understanding of the Gaelic language, and for developing Gaelic education and Gaelic culture.
The 2005 Act enables the bord to request Scottish public authorities, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and cross-border public authorities to produce local Gaelic language plans. The bord will produce guidance for those plans. In addition, the Act confers duties on the bord to advise Scottish Ministers, public bodies and other persons on matters relating to the Gaelic language, culture and education.
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Noble Lords may like to note that the Scotland Office, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Scottish Executive, the BBC, the Gaelic Media Service and Ofcom are engaged in discussions about establishing a Gaelic digital TV service. Detailed negotiations between the GMS and the BBC regarding the details of running the channel are on-going. It is hoped that they will be concluded by early February. We are not privy to the details of these negotiations, but all parties want the channel to begin broadcasting as soon as possible.
The new bord's functions are similar to the existing body, the Bord Gàidhlig na h-Alba, which will be wound up following the establishment of the new bord. One of the powers vested in the old bord was to nominate a member to be appointed to the Gaelic Media Service. The purpose of the order is to amend the Broadcasting Act 1990 to ensure that the nomination can be made by the new bord. The Scottish Parliament does not have the legislative competence to make this necessary, consequential amendment. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is aware of the order and has agreed the need for this technical change to take place.
With permission, I shall move on to the draft Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 (Consequential Provisions and Modifications) Order 2006. This order is again made under the powers of Section 104 of the Scotland Act.
The Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 9 June 2005 and received Royal Assent on 14 July last year. It creates an office to be known as the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. It also establishes a body corporate to be the holder of that office, which will be known by the acronym OSCR.
The 2005 Act consolidates all charity legislation in Scotland. It defines charities in a new way, and provides for a new regulatory framework. The new way of defining charities means that bodies wishing to be on the list of charities maintained by OSCR must meet the requirements of a charity test. The test consists of two parts: the purposes of the body must be exclusively charitable; and it must provide public benefit, either in Scotland or elsewhere. Unlike in the previous charity definition, none of the charitable purposes is assumed to provide public benefit. In addition, the body must not be able to distribute or apply any of its property for a non-charitable purpose, it must be free from the control of Scottish Ministers or Ministers of the Crown, and it must be non-political.
OSCR will have the power to keep a register of all charities passing this test with a presence in Scotland. Furthermore, it will have the power to supervise their operations, to monitor their accounts and to suspend their operation as a charity, if necessary. If the organisation does not meet the new definition of a charity, it will not be permitted to call itself a charity or imply that it holds charitable status.
The order establishes the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator as what is known as a non-ministerial office in the Scottish Administration. The
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purpose of giving OSCR this status is to ensure its independence from Scottish Ministers. That is in line with the recommendations of the Better Regulation Task Force following its report into independent regulators. It is appropriate to use Section 104 powers to achieve this because OSCR is a body corporate. Similar powers exist in Section 126(8) of the Scotland Act, which specifically allow for the creation of non-ministerial offices, but these are designed to deal with appointments held by individuals rather than bodies corporate, as is the case here. Noble Lords will wish to note that OSCR will be accountable to the Scottish Parliament, to which it must submit an annual report. Its staff, although not the body corporate itself, will be civil servants for pay and administrative purposes.
The order also confers on the commissioners of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs the ability to share tax information with OSCR. The purpose is to ensure that it can properly regulate charities on its register. The order does not compel the commissioners to act, but gives them the ability to do so. It establishes sanctions for those who release any information supplied by the commissioners unlawfully.
Additionally, it requires the Registrar of Companies and the Financial Services Authority to amend their records and cancel the registration of a company or friendly society which is a charity in Scotland that becomes a Scottish incorporated charitable organisation. This is a new legal form that a charity can adopt in Scotland under the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005. Finally, the order amends certain Acts of Parliament and secondary legislation to insert references to the new definition of a charity in Scotland and to repeal old references. I commend these orders to the House.
The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the exemplary way in which he has explained these rather complicated and involved orders for the far north of this land. In addressing the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 (Consequential Modifications) Order 2006, I must declare an interest as I was introduced as a very small boy of about two years old to life-long membership of An Comunn Gaidhealach, the organisation promoting Gaelic.
The Minister was right to tell the House that this measure is simply to replace a bord with one name with another that is not dissimilar. He hinted that there are some crucial differences, which are explained in the explanatory memorandum. Bord Gàidhlig na h'Alba was established as a company limited by guarantee, but because of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, the Scottish Executive have now been able to institute the new Bord na Gàidhlig with statutory powers. With the use of the Education and Training
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(Scotland) Act 2000, they have had power to ask local authorities to prepare a strategy for Gaelic education in each area. Having spoken to someone in their offices, they seem conscious that this will be more appropriate in some areas than in others. I hope that they will pursue that with some sensitivity.
I believe that there are about 90,000 Gaelic speakers of at least moderate fluency in Scotland. That represents a slight increase in recent years. The board to which they will be appointed, Seirbheis nam Meadhanan Gàidhligthe Gaelic Media Servicehas the power to produce Gaelic programmes and to hold broadcast licences with the intention of establishing a Gaelic channel. It was very useful that the Minister gave us some details on that because, with the advent of digital broadcasting, this is more feasible than it was a few years ago. The House should be aware that when that body was set up by the Conservative government in 1992, £9.5 million was provided. That funding exercise has now been delegated to the Scottish Executive, but currently that body is receiving only £8.5 million. A study by Deloitte has recently estimated that the cost of establishing a channel broadcasting for one and a half hours per day with a sustaining service would be £16.8 million. Noble Lords interested in these matters will be aware of what a great lift has been given to the Welsh language by the establishment of the Welsh-language channel S4C, which has a similar level of programme production to that proposed for the Gaelic channel. I was pleased to hear the Minister giving us some dates and proposals because the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages was signed by the British Government in 2001. Is the Minister satisfied with the rate of progress and the definitive programme that has been given?
Moving on to the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 (Consequential Provisions and Modifications) Order 2006, we can agree that there has been a need for better oversight of charities in Scotland. The setting up of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator is the method that the Scottish Executive have chosen to do that. By this instrument, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator is deemed to be a non-ministerial office in the Scottish administration. I am grateful to the Minister for explaining to the House that the board of that organisation will be held accountable to Scottish Ministers, as that was not entirely clear from the wording of the order.
We in this House have spent many hours recently dealing with major legislation to regulate charities, the Charities Bill, which is now in another place. The Minister is no doubt aware that the critical determination of a charity under that Bill is expressed as the "public benefit test". I understand that there are somewhat similar criteria under the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act, but those criteria are different. Will these raise an issue for Scottish charities operating in England, or for English charities operating in Scotland? Will there be any need for
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charities to achieve registration separately in both halves of the United Kingdom? I am pleased otherwise to agree to these measures.
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