Clause 63

Charities Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 13 July 2006.

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Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I beg to move amendmentNo. 153, page 69, line 5, leave out ‘or (3)’.

Photo of Joan Humble Joan Humble Labour, Blackpool North and Fleetwood

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 154, page 69, line 5, leave out ‘or (b)’.

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Amendment No. 153 is consequential on amendment No. 154, which seeks to leave out the  words “or (b)” that refer to subsection (1)(b), which deals with regulations that the Secretary of State may make

“for the purpose of regulating the conduct of public charitable collections”.

We do not seek to delete the paragraph—it is an important part of the structure of the clause as a whole—but we seek to remove the reference in subsection (4) to its generality not being restricted by anything else in the clause. In effect, the amendment would restrict the power of the Secretary of State to make regulations willy-nilly in whatever way he chose.

Although we trust that the Secretary of State and his parliamentary colleagues are generous souls, it seems that subsections (2) and (3) set out a comprehensive and legitimate list of the matters that may be prescribed by regulation, and the provisions that may be made. They refer to such sensible things as the areas in which the appeal can be conducted, the keeping of accounts and the prevention of annoyance to the public. I question whether the Secretary of State needs much wider powers, as granting them makes almost superfluous the powers granted in subsections (2) and (3).

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office) 10:15, 13 July 2006

Believe it or not, Donald Rumsfeld is able to help us. He talked a few years ago about known unknowns. He said that we know that there are some things that we do not know. The hon. Member for Cheltenham asks a legitimate question. He wants to know what it is that might not be contained in subsections (2) or (3) for which the Secretary of State would want to prescribe regulations. The truth is that we do not know. If we knew, it would be included. The question is therefore why we need the power.

The hon. Gentleman was formerly involved in the process of public fundraising, if not as an “Ã1/4berchugger” as I alleged earlier. He will know that we need the power because the way in which public fundraising takes place is rapidly changing. For instance, direct debit fundraising essentially did not exist 10 years ago. The only reason for these provisions is that they provide for flexibility in the prescribed regulations, so that if the process of public fundraising changes and it is thought to be necessary to take action in order to preserve public confidence on matters that fall outside subsections (2) and (3), we will have the flexibility to do so without recourse to primary legislation.

As I say, I cannot describe the ways in which public fundraising might evolve, or what regulations might be necessary; if I could, they would be defined in subsections (2) and (3). I know that that makes life rather difficult, but even if my observations included mention of Donald Rumsfeld, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I cannot help thinking that hon. Members and those in another place may have enormous fun reconstructing the Minister’s suggestion that known unknowns should be the proper basis for legislation, and citing Donald Rumsfeld as an authority. He might find that lawyers will challenge the  idea that it is a proper basis for legislation. I certainly would. However, I am somewhat reassured that his intent is benign.

Although the Minister’s reference to fundraising being a fast-moving discipline is right, public charitable collections are probably the least fast moving of all. The way in which fundraising is done—whether with cash, direct debits or standing orders—may have evolved over the past 10 or 15 years, but the nature of public collection itself has hardly changed in 100 years. Nevertheless, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 63 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 64 to 66 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Joan Humble Joan Humble Labour, Blackpool North and Fleetwood

Opposition Front Benchers have said that they would find it convenient to combine the debates on clauses 67 and 68 and the amendments to them accordingly.