Prevention of fraud and abuse of small donations scheme

Small Charitable Donations and Childcare Payments Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 15th November 2016.

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‘(1) The Small Charitable Donations Act 2012 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 16, insert the following—

“16A Prevention of fraud and abuse of small donations scheme

(1) Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs must, in respect of each tax year beginning with 2017-18, prepare an annual report specifying—

(a) the number of penalties imposed under this Act,

(b) the circumstances giving rise to the imposition of such penalties,

(c) its assessment of the extent to which charities have been established or operated for the primary purpose of securing benefits from the small donations scheme, and

(d) its assessment of the evidence available on the role of the gift aid matching rule in preventing fraud and abuse.

(2) A report prepared under subsection (1) must be laid before each House of Parliament by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

(3) In this section, “the gift aid matching rule” has the same meaning as in section 14(3).” —(Rebecca Long Bailey.)

This new clause requires HMRC to indicate how, each tax year, it has exercised its powers to impose penalties and in what circumstances and to provide an assessment of evidence on the role of the gift aid matching rule in preventing fraud and abuse.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 2— Review of operation of gift aid matching rule—

‘(1) The Small Charitable Donations Act 2012 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 16, insert the following—

“16A Review of operation of gift aid matching rule

(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall, no later than the end of the 2017-18 tax year, undertake a review of the operation of the gift aid matching rule.

(2) As part of the review of under subsection (1), the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall consult charities and other organisations that he considers relevant about—

(a) the role of the gift aid matching rule in preventing fraud and abuse, and

(b) the appropriateness of the Treasury exercising its order-making powers under section 14(2).

(3) A report of the review undertaken in accordance with this section must be laid before each House of Parliament by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

(4) In this section, “the gift aid matching rule” has the same meaning as in section 14(3).”

This new clause requires the Chancellor of the Exchequer to review the gift aid matching rule and to consult charities and other organisations on the appropriateness of exercising the Treasury’s powers to amend or abolish that rule which limits the amount of top-up payments to which a charity is entitled by reference to the amount of gifts made to the charity in respect of which it has made successful gift aid exemption claims.

New clause 3—Regulations on local branches and groups—

‘(1) The Small Charitable Donations Act 2012 is amended as set out in subsections (2) and (3).

(2) After section 5(1) (general provisions on meaning of “connected”), insert—

“(1A) This section is subject to the provisions of regulations made under section 5A (regulations on local branches and groups).”

(3) After section 5, insert the following—

“5A Regulations on local branches and groups

(1) The Treasury shall by regulations prescribe organisations in which local or regional branches or groups may not be considered to be connected for the purposes of sections 4 and 5.

(2) The Treasury shall publish the first set of draft regulations made under subsection (1) no later than 31 October 2017.

(3) Before publishing draft regulations under this section, the Treasury shall consult—

(a) the Scout Association;

(b) the Guide Association;

(c) the Combined Cadet Force Association; and

(d) such other organisations as appear to the Treasury to be relevant.”

This new clause requires the Treasury to identify organisations with local or regional branch or group structures in order that those local and regional branches or groups can be separately eligible under the scheme, and to consult certain organisations about the regulations in draft.

New clause 4—Abolition of Gift Aid donations threshold—

‘(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must carry out an assessment of the impact on charities and Community Amateur Sports Clubs of amending the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme so as to remove the 10% Gift Aid donations threshold that must be met in order to access the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme, including an assessment of the differential impact on different sizes of charities and Community Amateur Sports Clubs concerned.

(2) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must lay a report of the assessment before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.”

Charities and CASCs must give gift aid exemption claims on donations received in order to make a claim under the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme. The total gift aid donations must be at least 10% of the amount of the small donations on which top-up payments are claimed. This new clause would require the Chancellor to assess the impact of abolishing this requirement.

Photo of Rebecca Long-Bailey Rebecca Long-Bailey Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

New clause 1 would require Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to publish in each tax year a report detailing the number of penalties imposed under the Small Charitable Donations Act 2012 and the circumstances giving rise to the imposition of such penalties; HMRC’s assessment of the extent to which charities have been established or have operated for the primary purpose of securing benefits from the small donations scheme; and an assessment of the evidence available on the role of the gift aid matching rule in preventing fraud and abuse. New clause 2 would require the Government to conduct a review of the operation of the gift aid matching rule, which is the rule that the total gift aid donations operation for a charity must be 10% or more of the amount of small donations on which top-up payments are made. The new clause stipulates that the Chancellor should consult charities and other relevant organisations about the role of the matching rule in preventing fraud and abuse, and the appropriateness of exercising the Treasury’s powers to amend or abolish the rule. New clause 4, which was tabled by the Scottish National party, would also require the Chancellor to assess the impact of abolishing the matching requirement.

During the Bill’s passage through the House, we have had extensive debates about the matching requirement—rightly so, because it is the biggest issue affecting the efficacy of the scheme, according to the charities that use it. The sector thinks broadly that the requirement is arbitrary and is a significant barrier to charities being eligible for the scheme. A consultation with members of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations showed that it is the most significant barrier to access for smaller organisations. The survey found that 50% of respondents with an income under £10,000 wanted the removal or reduction of the matching requirement.

Ahead of Second Reading, the NCVO argued that the Government have presented no evidence to demonstrate the extent to which the matching requirement is a necessary mechanism to prevent fraud and error, or that the matching ratio of 1:10 is the minimum necessary to achieve this objective. Despite considerable debate on this matter, we have got all the way to Report and the Government have still failed to provide any evidence that the matching requirement works. I would welcome the Minister’s comments on that today.

New clause 2 would force the Government to produce evidence in the form of a review and report on the operation of the gift aid matching rule, and whether it should be changed or removed entirely. New clause 4 would require a similar review, so we will be happy to support that measure. I would rather not have to press our new clauses 1 and 2 to a Division unless we have to. They call for a review of something that the charity sector says is hindering the scheme. I hope for some movement from the Minister on the issue today, but if the SNP’s new clause is pressed to a Division, we will support it wholeheartedly, as it reflects many of the principles that we have outlined in new clauses 1 and 2.

I am sure that the Minister will repeat her argument that the matching requirement is necessary to prevent fraud. I agree that we need measures to safeguard against such abuses. The Charity Commission has provided figures showing the extent of fraud in the charity sector. In 2014-15, 417 serious incidents involving fraud and/or theft or the misapplication of funds were reported by charities to the commission, and 255 operational compliance cases were completed. As Members are aware, just last week the commission announced in a press release that it was investigating the charity Our Local Heroes Foundation. According to the commission, it had received information about a proposed disposal of land owned by the charity, concerns regarding the founder of the charity receiving significant personal benefit through the charity, and a complaint that the charity was receiving only 20% of funds raised through a fundraising company.

This is just one case, but it is a sad example of charities being used as vehicles for tax avoidance and fraud. It is therefore incumbent on us to make it as hard as possible to abuse charitable status. That was why we have tabled new clause 1, which would require a review of the prevention of fraud and abuse in the small donations scheme. As I said, the review would need to address the number of penalties imposed under the Small Charitable Donations Act 2012 and the circumstances giving rise to the imposition of such penalties. It should include Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ assessment of the extent to which charities have been established or have operated for the primary purpose of securing benefits from the small donations scheme, and HMRC’s assessment of the evidence available on the role of the gift aid matching rule in preventing fraud and abuse.

The Government’s guidance on the scheme explains that if a charity or community amateur sports club

“incurs a penalty in respect of an incorrect Gift Aid claim or GASDS”— gift aid small donations scheme—

“claim, it won’t be eligible for the scheme both for the tax year in which the incorrect claim was made and in the following tax year.”

I would argue that the link between gift aid and the scheme is stronger than the matching requirement. Charities claiming gift aid can still be, and indeed have been, fraudulent organisations, so simply having a monetary link to the gift aid is not enough. This provision—that if a gift aid claim is wrong, a charity cannot claim through the scheme for that tax year and the following tax year—seems to be a stronger safeguard against fraudulent organisations than the matching requirement. Things might be more complex than that, but a review would clearly be beneficial, because we could assess where the matching requirement actually works effectively. In that way, the Government and the charities sector would be able to see clearly which anti-fraud measures were most effective.

Let me turn now to new clause 3, which deals with a different matter. Members and the Minister will remember that we made the case in Committee that certain groups—the Girl Guides, the Scouts, and the Army, Navy and Air Force cadet groups—were not able to get the full benefit of the small donations scheme. That was after feedback from the respective charities’ representatives that, because of the structure of the groups, they were able to make only one claim for the entirety of the group, even though individual groups within them fund themselves.

The Minister responded that the measure proposed in Committee was unnecessary because the Bill allowed for what it proposed. She neatly illustrated why she would reject it—because, at the time, it carved out a few selected charities—but we want provisions to benefit a broad range of charities, some of which were not named in the original new clause tabled in Committee.

New clause 3 attempts to address the Minister’s points by allowing the Treasury to make regulations to exempt certain organisations from the connected charities rules. The Government would have to consult the Scout Association, the Guide Association and the Combined Cadet Force Association, in particular, before publishing those regulations. The Minister said she would reflect on the points raised in Committee, so I hope that she will accept the new clause today. It would not carve out a few selected charities, but give the Government the power to consult organisations that are mistakenly affected by the connected charities rules. It would, therefore, make the scheme run more smoothly, which is, after all, the point of the Bill.

I hope that the Minister has listened carefully to the rationale behind the new clauses and recognises that we are genuinely trying to achieve the same end: to make the gift aid small donations scheme work as well as possible for as many charities as possible. I hope that the new clauses will be accepted. We will not press new clauses 1 and 2 to a vote, but we will divide the House on new clause 3, and we will support new clause 4 should the SNP choose to press it to a Division.

Photo of Susan Elan Jones Susan Elan Jones Labour, Clwyd South

I speak in support of the points made by our shadow Minister about new clauses 1 and 2, which deal practically with the issue of fraud and put the onus very simply on HMRC to establish the extent of the problem. The difficulty facing the voluntary sector is that even with the £15 million of additional support in the Bill, the gift aid small donations scheme will distribute roughly £40 million, which is only about a third of the £115 million that was, according to Government opinion, projected to be distributed next year. This scheme could and should be growing. It is important because it helps and develops the smallest charities, and that must continue.

In speaking to new clause 2, my hon. Friend Rebecca Long Bailey referred to the matching arrangements. I stand here with a certain amount of hope, because I remember that four years ago, when the first version of this Bill was born, the Government proposed 1:1 matching, and now we see matching of 1:10. All we—and, more significantly, many charities and charitable bodies’ organisations—respectfully ask is that the Government consider how sacrosanct that 1:10 matching rule is. That is well put in our new clause 2 and in new clause 4, which was tabled by the SNP.

I hope that the Minister will consider these points. A few years ago in this Chamber, we were told that such provisions could not possibly include contactless payments. The Government moved on that, and they moved on the rate of matching. To be optimistic, as we all want this Bill to work, I very much hope that the Government will shift a little on these issues too.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords) 3:45 pm, 15th November 2016

I rise to speak to new clause 4, which stands in my name and that of my hon. Friend Roger Mullin, although I shall touch on the other new clauses in the group.

New clause 1, which would require HMRC to present an annual report, is reasonable and sensible. I was surprised by the amount of discussion we had in Committee and elsewhere about the possibility of charities using such a scheme for fraudulent purposes. Perhaps I was being naive as that had not crossed my mind a great deal, but apparently people are genuinely concerned about it. If the Government were to take on board Labour’s proposal in new clause 1, it would help to allay the fears of the general public about how charities are acting. I think that only a very small minority of charities are set up to act fraudulently, and the publication of such information would help to ensure that the public are aware of that.

New clause 2, not dissimilarly from a number of measures that we discussed in Committee, deals with the matching requirement. I will come on to that later. I understand why Labour Members have tabled new clause 3, which addresses local organisations that, unfortunately, are caught by some aspects of the way in which the Bill is written. I appreciate that that is an issue, so my colleagues and I will support Labour Members if they press it to a vote.

New clause 4 relates to the matching requirement and the associated threshold. When the first draft of the Bill was introduced in the previous Parliament, the Government supported a different matching requirement from what was eventually approved. During the consideration of that Bill, they also changed the proposals on the matching requirement so that they could edit it in the future, if necessary. That was a result of pressure by charities and organisations that had raised concerns about the arbitrary nature of the level that was chosen for the matching requirement.

I appreciate that the Government have moved on this in the past, but charities are now asking them to move further. As Rebecca Long Bailey said, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Charity Finance Group, the Institute of Fundraising and the Small Charities Coalition produced a paper saying that it was vital that the matching requirement was changed or removed. That is why we have brought the proposal before the House. Although we discussed this in Committee, we still feel that the Government need to look at it, while appreciating that they have the power to do so outwith this Bill.

If the Government do not accept the new clause, I would very much appreciate it if they considered the proposal in the future. This is not just about the SNP; our proposal is widely supported, including by the Labour party and by charities across the UK such as the Churches Legislation Advisory Service and the Charity Tax Group. If fears can be allayed about fraud, in particular, it would be reasonable for the Government to take some steps towards change. I do not want to talk for long, but I would appreciate it if the Government would seriously consider taking up this proposal. If they do not agree to the new clause, I hope that they will at least commit to looking at it at some point in the future.

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I appreciate the spirit in which the new clauses have been spoken to, because we are all here for one purpose, which is to make sure that the Bill works as well as possible for the benefit of as many charities as possible. In responding to this short debate, I will try to offer evidence of the reasons why we cannot, or do not think that it is right to, accept the new clauses.

New clause 1 would require Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to publish every year an analysis of the number of penalties imposed; the circumstances giving rise to the imposition of those penalties; an assessment of the number of charities set up with the primary purpose of accessing the small donations scheme; and an assessment of the efficacy of the matching rule in preventing fraud. That relates to the general debate that we have had throughout the Bill’s progress about how we prevent fraud and a minority of people from exploiting the rules.

New clause 2 would require the Chancellor to undertake a review of the matching rule—the same is true, as we have just heard, of new clause 4—in consultation with the charity sector, and to lay a copy of the report by the end of the 2017-18 tax year.

New clause 3 seeks a power to prescribe by regulations an exemption for certain charities from the connected charities provision. The shadow Minister, Rebecca Long Bailey, is right to say that we debated that proposal in Committee and that I undertook to reflect on it. I will tell her where I have got to shortly. The new clause would require the Treasury to consult the Scouts, Guides, military cadet groups and other organisations before publishing draft regulations on or before 31 October 2017.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

On consultation, the Minister has mentioned the Scouts and a number of other organisations, but has she considered consulting the Brethren? I am sure that she will recall that, during the last Parliament, the Brethren lost its charity status for a while and there was a large number of debates.

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Obviously, I was not in this post at the time, but I recall someone in my constituency drawing my attention to that. As I will come on to say, the consultation process leading up to the Bill was exhaustive, but I also hope to reassure the House that the ongoing consultation with people who have an interest in the issue is significant on the part of HMRC and the departmental team led by the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend Mr Wilson, who has responsibility for civil society. It is fair to say that we have a good, constructive and ongoing dialogue with the charity sector and those affected by the provisions, but I acknowledge that there was a slightly different concern in relation to the group mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.

New clause 4 proposes that an assessment be put before the House within six months of the passing of the Bill, and it centres on the gift aid matching requirement and its impact on charities of different sizes. We debated similar amendments in Committee and, although I accepted that they were well intended, I decided that they were unnecessary, so it will probably not surprise Kirsty Blackman, who spoke on behalf of the SNP, that I will make some of the same points again today, but I hope to build on what I said in Committee.

New clause 1 concerns fraud—a vital issue that we have discussed a number of times and that we take very seriously. I am grateful to Opposition Members for giving us the opportunity to return to this important subject. I welcome, as I did in Committee, the fact that we have a cross-party consensus on protecting the gift aid small donations scheme from fraudulent attack. Opposition Members have raised on several occasions the efficacy of the matching scheme as a deterrent against fraud, and they asked us on Second Reading and in Committee to prove that the matching rule prevents fraud. At each stage, particularly in the debate on the matter in Committee, I drew the House’s attention to a few examples of the shocking abuses of charitable status that have resulted in criminal convictions this year alone. Sadly, I have a reasonably extensive list of quite recent events, but I sense that I do not need to persuade people that fraud does happen in a minority of cases.

I am not sure exactly what further evidence Opposition Members would like me to provide. As I said in Committee, the Government are, in essence, being asked to prove a negative. That is a risky proposition, and I will illustrate why. If the suggestion is that the Government should adopt a wait-and-see approach, remove all the protections and then attempt to close the loopholes when fraudulent attacks take place, I cannot agree that that is the right approach. Opening up the scheme to abuse would be irresponsible, could waste a large amount of public money and—probably most importantly—could cause untold damage to the reputation of our fantastic charity sector. I cannot recommend that course of action to the House.

To be clear, we know that the majority of charities are honest. They are run by dedicated and trustworthy people—the sort of people whom we all know in our constituencies. For the fraudsters, however, nothing is sacred. It is a sad fact that if they are presented with an opportunity, they do not hesitate to exploit it. I gave examples on Second Reading and in Committee of fraudulent activity seen by HMRC, and I am sorry to say that, as I have mentioned, further examples are easily provided. It is not just HMRC and the Treasury that recognise that fraud in the charity sector is a problem; there is wide acknowledgment in the sector that fraud is a costly issue, particularly because of the reputational damage it causes. Some Members may be aware that last month saw Charity Fraud Awareness Week and the launch of a new “Charities against fraud” website, which is a joint initiative between the Charity Commission and the Fraud Advisory Panel to help trustees and volunteers to recognise the risks and take action to prevent fraud in charities.

There is also recognition from charity umbrella bodies that charity fraud can be incredibly damaging. The Charity Finance Group noted in its guide “Countering Fraud”, which was published during Fraud Awareness Week:

“Fraud is a problem that can affect any charity from the very large to the very small. Falling victim to fraud can undermine a charity’s reputation, damage donor confidence and reduce a charity’s ability to help its beneficiaries. On occasion fraud has even led to the forced closure of a charity.”

The Government will not tolerate the abuse of charitable status, for the reasons so eloquently expressed by the Charity Finance Group. The Government will continue to take action to tackle and disrupt the dishonest minority who attempt such fraud.

I am simply not convinced that it would be helpful to publish an annual report detailing the compliance activity that HMRC has undertaken. Indeed, I fear that doing so could have the unintended consequence of assisting the very people whom HMRC is attempting to weed out. HMRC’s operational performance in this and every other respect is, quite rightly, the subject of independent scrutiny by the National Audit Office and Parliament, through the Treasury Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. For that reason, I believe that new clause 1 is unnecessary, and I hope that the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles might consider withdrawing it.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords)

None of us has suggested, at any stage of the proceedings on the Bill, removing all the anti-fraud measures. In fact, we were quite clear and measured in everything that we moved; it was about an assessment. New clause 1 is about responding to our concerns about the actual level of fraud and providing us with the relevant information to enable us to have a much more knowledgeable debate next time the matter comes up—specifically around the level, the percentage and the money that is involved—rather than about removing the measure entirely.

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I understand that point, but my real concern is that the matching rule is the only remaining condition on this particular scheme. Obviously, there are other aspects to wider gift aid, but on the scheme that is the subject of this Bill, we are down to a simple last remaining condition that we believe helps to avoid the scheme being exploited fraudulently. I just do not accept the premise that it is sensible to remove it, to see what happens and then to come back to Parliament and say, “We removed it and, as we thought, it was exploited, so now we have to close that loophole again, but in the meantime we have lost public money and, more importantly, charities have lost reputation.”

Photo of Susan Elan Jones Susan Elan Jones Labour, Clwyd South 4:00 pm, 15th November 2016

I accept that the Minister may want to keep the matching rule to some extent, but what is so sacred about 1:10?

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I will say a little about that. As other hon. Members have said, there was movement on this during the passage of the original legislation. The figure is reasonable and strikes a sensible balance. A ratio of 1:10 is an easy one for those administering this to remember. If hon. Members accept that the matching rule is sensible in principle, I am prepared to say that it is something we would anyway keep under review in the normal course of events. The civil society Minister and I were saying to each other on the Front Bench a moment ago that, given hon. Members’ interest in this, we will keep an eye on it in particular and draw it out in the ongoing dialogue that we naturally have with charities. However, I cannot accept that removing it entirely is a good idea. These things are kept under constant review, and both the Treasury and the civil society parts of Government have a very good relationship with the charities sector, so we will have plenty of opportunities to continue to have such a dialogue with charities and to understand where this comes in. In a few moments, I will say a little more to demonstrate that it is not the barrier that some hon. Members have suggested it is.

Let me turn to new clauses 2 and 4. New clause 2 is a request for a review of the matching rule in consultation with the charity sector. As I have said, the Government have already undertaken a full review of all aspects of the gift aid small donations scheme, including the matching rule, and the Bill is a result of that review. However, I will always be happy to keep an eye on this issue. The Government’s review was comprehensive and open, and it was carried out in full consultation with the charities sector and, indeed, with anyone with an interest in the scheme or in charity tax reliefs more generally. Some hon. Members will recall that, as I have said, back in 2012, the Government committed to reviewing the operation of the scheme after three years, so the Government have made good on that promise.

We recognise how important the scheme and the promised review were to charities. We listened to the sector, and that is why we announced in the autumn statement last year that we would bring forward the review of the scheme to December 2015. To inform the review, HMRC published a call for evidence in December, seeking charities’ views about the operation of the scheme, including its eligibility rules and processes. The call for evidence asked five questions about the scheme’s eligibility criteria, including two questions specifically about the gift aid matching requirement. The call for evidence closed on 2 March. HMRC received 197 responses from charities, representative bodies and other interested parties. The Government reviewed all the submissions and published a response on 20 April.

In the responses document, which is available on the Government’s website, we explain that the vast majority of—indeed, almost all—the respondents to the call for evidence did not identify the matching rule as a major barrier to accessing the scheme. The Government recognise that many of the responses reflected the experience of charities already successfully using the scheme and may not therefore be representative of the sector as a whole. We take that point, so HMRC has supplemented the data provided by charities with an analysis of its own data. As I explained in Committee, the data showed that 92% of charities claiming gift aid for the tax year 2014-15 claimed on donations of £500 or more, entitling them to the maximum small donations allowance at that time of £5,000. HMRC’s analysis also showed that 98% of charities claiming gift aid in 2014-15 claimed sufficient amounts to receive a small donations allowance of at least £1,000.

The Government also considered data produced by the charity sector. A survey carried out by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Charity Finance Group, the Institute of Fundraising, the Small Charities Coalition and the Association of Independent Museums found that just 5% of respondents claimed no gift aid at all, and only 10% did not feel that their charity claimed enough gift aid to make the small donations scheme worthwhile.

Following the call for evidence, HMRC published a further consultation on reform options on 20 April, which was yet another opportunity for stakeholders to put forward reform ideas for consideration. That consultation closed on 1 July this year. It received 46 responses. Again, interestingly, the matching rule was not raised as an issue by the vast majority of respondents.

Quite simply, none of the available data, whether produced by the Government or the sector itself, support the assertion that the gift aid matching rule is a significant barrier to accessing the small donations scheme. The Government have already collected data on the matching rule, carried out a full objective review of the whole scheme and consulted the charity sector. That is why we believe that repeating the consultation process again, so soon after the last consultation, would not produce a different outcome, and why, therefore, I urge the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles not to press new clause 2 to a Division.

As I have said, given the clear interest in the House, we will continue to take a keen interest in this matter, and will listen to the views of the charity sector. The civil society Minister and I are already talking about how we can do more to publicise some aspects of the scheme, and in particular how to get those that do not take advantage of the small donations scheme at the moment to do so. There is a charities day on 16 November, about which we will say a little more later; that will be an opportunity to say and do more to promote the scheme to that small minority not already using it.

I appreciate that in tabling new clause 4 the hon. Members for Aberdeen North and for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Roger Mullin) are seeking to understand the differential impact that abolishing the matching rule would have on charities of different sizes. I have already set out why we do not support the removal of the gift aid matching rule, but I have to tell Opposition Members that it is simply not possible to provide them with the level of analysis that they are seeking. Although HMRC holds data on charitable tax reliefs, it quite rightly collects and retains only those data that are necessary to support its function of administering gift aid and other reliefs. Size and turnover are not relevant for gift aid purposes; HMRC therefore does not routinely collect data on the size or types of charities claiming gift aid or small donations top-ups.

As I explained in Committee, HMRC is transparent with the data it holds, and publishes a national statistics package every year that provides a wealth of information about the take-up and use of charitable tax reliefs, including the gift aid small donations scheme. Hon. Members may also be interested to know that HMRC makes many of its datasets, including those relating to charitable reliefs, available—suitably anonymised, of course—to academics and other individuals who approach it with a suitable research proposal. I can tell the House that a number of organisations have recently made use of HMRC’s charities data for research purposes. That is a good example of open government and open data being put to good use.

I hope I have reassured the hon. Member for Aberdeen North that where HMRC possesses data, those data are transparent and, where appropriate, open to outside scrutiny. New clause 4 is not appropriate, because it would require, in legislation, the Government to do something that we simply cannot do. On that basis, I hope the hon. Lady will consider not pressing the new clause to a Division.

Let me turn finally to new clause 3. As I have explained in previous debates, the connected charities rules are intended to protect the gift aid small donations scheme from abuse. They work in conjunction with the community buildings rules to deliver fair and broadly equal outcomes for charities structured in different ways. Without the connected charities rules, larger charities would be faced with a perverse incentive to splinter into artificial groups of smaller charities to increase their entitlement to small donations allowances. New clause 3 would grant the Treasury the power to exempt specific named charities from the connected charities rules. It would also require the Treasury to publish draft regulations, following consultation with the Scouts, the Guides and others.

The new clause is unnecessary. As we have heard, the Government have just concluded a full and open review of all aspects of the gift aid small donations scheme. That review included the gift aid matching rule and the connected charities rules. In that very open consultation, many representations included the Scouts and other uniformed groups. The Government listened to the representations from the uniformed groups. They told us that they welcomed the gift aid small donations scheme, but were unable to benefit fully from the current community buildings rules because most of their fundraising, as Members will know, takes place outside in their local community. The Bill will therefore relax the community buildings rules to allow donations collected outside the building to be counted for community buildings purposes. As discussed on Second Reading and in Committee, this will help bob-a-job work and so on that is done outside the scout hut or other building.

The intention is to allow groups such as the Scouts to benefit more fully from the scheme without the need to specifically exclude them from the connected charities provision. We debated a similar amendment in Committee and had a thorough and thoughtful debate on the implications of the Bill for the youth groups in question. The shadow Chief Secretary raised a number of good points and I undertook to reflect on them and look at them more closely. Having done so, I confirm to the House that a scout hut is an eligible community building and there is no requirement for the building to be rented out or for access to be granted to other community groups. That means that the Scouts and other similar uniformed groups will benefit from the changes contained in the Bill. Whether it is bag-packing at the local supermarket or bucket collections at the local fete, donations in the local community will count for the small donations scheme. The Bill’s provisions already deliver the outcome Opposition Members seek. I therefore suggest that new clause 3 is unnecessary and I hope the hon. Lady will withdraw it.

Photo of Rebecca Long-Bailey Rebecca Long-Bailey Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

With the leave of the House, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 3