After a rigorous application process, Bates Wells’ Mark Abbott has become a “Roll A” Parliamentary Agent, meaning Bates Wells is now one of a small number of firms able to introduce and promote private Acts of Parliament for our clients.

What is a Parliamentary Agent?

A parliamentary agent is a specialist lawyer who can draft, and help clients to obtain, a private Act of Parliament.

Why would a charity or non-profit need a Parliamentary Agent?

A significant number of charities and non-profits are governed by private Acts of Parliament (we call them “statutory charities” in this note). 

In some cases, an Act of Parliament will have set the organisation up and its whole constitution will be contained in the Act. In others, there will be an underlying trust or Royal Charter body, for example, and the Act will have simply tweaked the provisions.

These Acts are difficult to update, which means that statutory charities can get stuck with charitable purposes which are no longer fit for purpose (and stifle the charity’s growth), unworkable administrative provisions, or inappropriate restrictions on spending capital, for example.  Often they do not have enough powers to operate as expected in the modern age (for example, the statutory power to make social investments does not apply to statutory charities). Or the Act may contain inconsistencies or ambiguities which are difficult to ignore in light of today’s governance expectations.

Statutory charities are then stuck in a difficult position: concerned about navigating the process to change their governing documents (and there are specific charity law requirements), but their charity’s activities constrained, and their resources wasted, by continuing on with them as they are.

Sometimes the best way is to obtain a separate Act of Parliament. At other times (but not always) there are alternative routes available, like obtaining a Parliamentary scheme, where the Charity Commission and DCMS can lay an order before Parliament.

How can Bates Wells help?

Mark is the first (and currently only) Parliamentary Agent to enrol specifically to help charities and not-for-profits. 

Statutory charities, Royal Charter bodies and other organisations with complex structures can now come to Bates Wells to access the full suite of options when it comes to making constitutional and structural changes. Combining knowledge of Parliamentary processes with knowledge of the specific requirements for charities and the charity sector, we can find the best and most proportionate option for you. We can help with:

  • Updating statutory provisions – e.g. charitable purposes, restrictions on spending capital, or outdated administrative provisions, by the full range of methods including use of the Charities Act powers, supplemental charters, Parliamentary (“s.73”) schemes or private Acts of Parliament. 
  • Interpreting legislation and advising you on its meaning and impact on you; and
  • Other services, such as representing bodies that wish to petition in relation to a proposed private Act of Parliament.

Take a look at our Parliamentary Agent page for full details on how we can help you.