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Clause 11 — Donations to charity by individuals

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 13th June 2005.

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Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Labour, Wolverhampton South West 4:45 pm, 13th June 2005

The hon. Gentleman has made my point for me—it is difficult to interpret tax legislation in terms of who is the user of an exhibit. If he were playing with the machine with flashing lights, it might not be an experiment, but if his son Oliver were playing with such an instrument, it might be an experiment, given the young lad's age.

I shall be interested to hear what the Economic Secretary has to say about amendment No. 35. Some hon. Members have been pessimistic in assessing the effect of the one-year admission rule, which amendment No. 35 would change. The excellent Wolverhampton art gallery, of which I am not a member because it is free, has a tea shop, the kind of facility to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda referred. Lots of people who go to the tea shop just to drink tea end up catching an exhibition. The example is anecdotal, but since the tea shop has been expanded in the past few years, footfall must have increased since the abolition of entry charges to museums.

Many museums in England, Wales and, I suspect, Scotland—this is possibly true in Northern Ireland—are expanding their provision of tea shops because they are experiencing greater footfall with free admissions. Footfall increased following the introduction of the 12-month right of admission in the great public museums and art galleries that have become free under this Government, and footfall might similarly increase in small museums, such as the Gainsborough museum in Sudbury to which Mr. Francois referred.

The 12-month right of admission might allow small museums that already get some repeat business to increase that business and benefit from spin-offs on commercial sales and increased interest in the museum and its offerings. Charities should try to increase footfall to enable more people to enjoy and learn, which is their purpose. If a museum were creative, the 12-month restriction could assist it by allowing it to say to people, "You are now an honorary class 2 member. Come here more often, drink more cups of tea and bring other people with you."

Amendment No. 35 attempts to address a problem that may not exist, whereas the current wording in the Bill could provide small museums and art galleries with an opportunity to increase visitor numbers.