Clause 67

Charities Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 13 July 2006.

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Statements indicating benefits for charitable institutions and fund-raisers

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I beg to move amendment No. 128, page 71, line 14, at end insert—

‘(6) After subsection (9) insert—

The Charity Commission shall have power to initiate criminal proceedings in respect of offences under subsection (9).” ’.

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

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Clause stand part.

Amendment No. 131, in clause 68, page 73, line 22, at end add—

“60C Fundraising by sale of products and services

(1) Save in the case of small outlets, where the sale of any goods or service is represented as benefiting a charity or charities, the vendor shall indicate either the proportion or the amount of the sale price which will be passed to the charity or charities for their unrestricted benefit.

(2) Indications under subsection (1) above may be made in diagramatic form, and shall be made in writing, the font-size of which shall be no smaller than the price of the goods or service.

(3) For the purpose of this section, a “small outlet” is an organisation which is not obliged to register for Value Added Tax purposes.”.’.

Clause 68 stand part.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

When we arrived this morning, it was fair to say that the sun had got his hat on and we all hoped that later on we could come out to play. The sun has, I am afraid, taken his hat off and hidden behind a cloud. Let us hope that he comes out again later. It is  pleasing to see you, Mrs. Humble, once more in your place, if only for a few more minutes.

I am grateful that the two clauses have been brought together because that will make for a shorter debate. I give notice that I might wish to press amendment No. 131 to a Division.

Amendment No. 128 gives the Charity Commission the power to initiate criminal proceedings in respect of offences under subsection (9). The reason for that is that in the past—there are a number of specialised offences here—the Charity Commission has had the power to take action against charities. However, it was not necessarily the charities who were offending. Sometimes an organisation that is not a charity purports to be one. The provision would give the Charity Commission the power to enforce criminal sanctions in respect of clause 60 of the Bill. That may not be the most appropriate body for the task; it might be appropriate for sanctions to be enforced by trading standards or a similar organisation. That is by nature of a probing amendment and I will welcome the Minister’s view on that.

Amendment No. 131 is a requirement for information to be given, when goods or services are offered for sale purportedly for the benefit of a charity, about the amount of money that is going to that charity. It adds a new section 60C to the 1993 Act. It exempts small outlets. I can see the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland shaking her head. I am sure that we will have an interesting debate on that.

Christmas cards are one example of goods that are quite frequently offered for sale, supposedly for the benefit of charity. I refer to a 5 November report from The Guardian. It is relevant that it is Guy Fawkes night on this day of all days. Hon. Members might wish to consult the Guido Fawkes blog to find out more about why I have said that. However, The Guardian said:

“Britain’s high street retailers are selling charity Christmas cards which give as little as 4p in every £1 to good causes. A survey by Guardian Money reveals that John Lewis Partnership and Fenwick as the stores which give least, with one card on sale in Fenwick’s swanky Bond Street store”— it has descended to the level of The Sun in that—

“giving just 1p to an arts fund...Card Aid...names John Lewis as ‘Scrooge of the year’. Clinton Cards topped the survey by promising to pass on 25 per cent. of the (pre-VAT) price on its charity cards.”

That is a matter of some concern. How much money from a service or a good that is offered for sale by a high street outlet—although not only a high street outlet and I have specifically exempted small outlets—goes to charity?

In 2004, the average charity Christmas card sold for 64p of which only 5p went to charity. Boots have a standard flat rate of 10p—

It being twenty-five minutes past Ten o’clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at One o’clock.