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Thank you, Sir Edward, but I had seen the Government Whip running round trying to roust up a couple of speeches from the Conservative Back Benches so I assumed we had a little time. I will try to be more concise, however.
The proposal is to tighten the current spending limits, but they have served us well. As far as we could ascertain, they have elicited not a single case or complaint. We heard the same response time and again: “We have already got limits. Why on earth do we need to change them?” Again, there seems to be no clear rationale for doing that. But the impact of lowering the limits is, obviously, to reduce the amount of money that charities, voluntary sector organisations and others can spend in pursuit of their legitimate objectives. If people go crazy and start to spend them on illegitimate objectives, they will get caught by existing legislation, let alone future legislation.
Which are the organisations that are going to go wacky? They are the Royal College of Midwives—yes, probably—Action for Children, the Howard League for Penal Reform, the Royal British Legion and Oxfam; those organisations gave evidence to my Select Committee about their concerns. They are not fringe; they are not just within the bounds of legitimacy. They are mainstream bodies, many of which have been going for 100 years or more. The National Trust is another—it is almost a newcomer, having been going only since the 1920s, I believe. I could also mention Christian Aid, the Stroke Association, Girlguiding, the Woodland Trust, the Royal Mencap Society, the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and the Salvation Army. They are big and can look after themselves. They can get a brief and some legal advice. More chilling is what might happen to others who gave evidence. What about the Foyle Women’s Information Network and the Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service? They cannot take a risk of being interpreted, under the definitions in this Bill, as being even marginally in an area of transgression.