Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Clause 11 — Donations to charity by individuals

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 13th June 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Shadow Paymaster General 5:15 pm, 13th June 2005

I think that I can genuinely say that this has been an informative debate and I thank all who have contributed. I noticed that we kept the Officials' Box rather busy, and I think we can all take that as a backhanded compliment.

The Minister admitted in his introductory remarks that he had been a lifelong Manchester City supporter, so his courage is not in doubt, but he also said that he was making his maiden speech in a Finance Bill Committee. Actually, so was I, but I did not ask for quite the same mercy in the form of a lack of interventions. I think the Minister will forgive me if I put that on the record as well.

This issue was dealt with for 18 months by John Healey, who is now Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I was slightly disappointed that he did not respond to the debate. I take it that the baton was effectively handed to the Economic Secretary in a shuffle of responsibilities. Having heard the debate, I am sure that the Economic Secretary is delighted to have been given this bonne bouche by his more senior colleague.

I listened carefully to Susan Kramer. I am grateful for her declaration of support for our amendment No. 35, which I am minded to press. Let me deal first, however, with amendment No. 1. My hon. Friend Stephen Hammond tabled an interesting amendment seeking to widen the qualifying definition in clause 11(5I), and made an interesting case for it. As this year is the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar, I was intrigued to hear of Lord Nelson's domestic arrangements, which my hon. Friend described at one point as a ménage à trois. Who is to say that debate on the Finance Bill must always be dry? Having heard what the Minister said, I suspect that my hon. Friend will not be minded to press his amendment at this stage. Nevertheless, he has succeeded in raising the issue in Committee and I congratulate him on that.

I also congratulate my hon. Friend Mr. Dunne, who gave a number of practical examples of how the clause could directly affect his constituency. He also managed to get more interest on the record than I did in my opening remarks, and I congratulate him on that as well. My hon. Friend asked a specific question about how the Mappa Mundi would be affected. I was pleased to hear that the Minister had offered to write to him directly. I hope that my hon. Friend will receive clarification that will be of value to his constituents.

With amendment No. 36, we were partly trying to tease out the Government's thinking, but we also had a serious point to make. Let me say to the hon. Members for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) and for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), both of whom spoke, that we drafted the amendment deliberately. We did not say that it would apply only to educative interactive facilities for children, because children do not have a monopoly on being educated. Adults can often be educated too, as the House of Commons proves regularly.

Of course, as a rule of thumb, people under the age of 18 tend not to be taxpayers, so the issue is whether the institution itself can qualify. I am pleased that in his speech the Minister effectively accepted amendment No. 36 by confirming that the guidelines that the Government will issue to clarify this matter will include that category of charity. I thank him for that, but I reiterate the plea on behalf of the whole sector that we have those guidelines as soon as possible. Quite properly, and for all the reasons that we have elucidated this afternoon, many museums and charities throughout the country will want to investigate whether they can qualify. The sooner, therefore, that the Treasury and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs produce those guidelines in hard copy, so that everybody can read them and take a view, the better.

I also paid particular attention to what the Minister said about amendment No. 35. I appreciate that his very reasonable predecessor has discussed this issue—which, as I said, dates back to December 2003—with the industry for some time. Originally, the Government were going to abolish qualifying institutions' ability to claim gift aid on admission charges. There was such a row that they retreated and came up with a modified position, on which they have also consulted. However, as we have attempted seriously to argue this afternoon, a number of institutions are still genuinely very concerned about how the clause will operate, particularly the provisions concerning the 10 per cent. additional charge and the one-year right of admission. We have tried to reduce that period to three months, so that the Government can protect revenue without charitable sectors—museums—being inappropriately affected to the point where their revenue schemes are under serious threat.

We have made the case and I am sorry to hear that the Minister was not minded to accept it. I suspect that, as a result, this issue will rumble on. The Government have offered to review the situation in 2007, as the regulatory impact assessment points out, so we may yet need to consider how the provision works in practice. I make a final plea to the Minister that between now and consideration on Report in July, he goes back to those who are affected by this provision and considers the issue one last time. However, given that he has offered no concessions this afternoon, we have no option but to test the opinion of the Committee. I therefore wish to press amendment No. 35 to a vote.