New Clause 11

Charities Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 13 July 2006.

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Small charities: remittance of fees

‘(1) Where any fee or charge is payable to a local authority under any enactment, the local authority may draw up and operate a scheme of fee remittances for any class of small charities.

(2) “Small charity” in this section means any charity with a turnover of less than £100,000 per year.’.—[Mr. Turner.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I would be grateful if the Minister told me that the new clause complied with the Cheltenham principle, but I believe that it does not. It is intended to provide an additional power—although not, I emphasise, a duty—for local authorities to remit any fee that is payable to them by a charity, or to draw up and operate a scheme of remittances for such fees. I shall illustrate it, as one so often does, by reference to a local example.

The people who run the Chale show, an agricultural show on the Isle of Wight, found that under the new licensing regime they had to pay £1,000 for a licence. Because their expected gate now exceeds the threshold set out in the Isle of Wight Acts, they had to comply with the requirements of those Acts as well, which cost another £3,000.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West 3:15, 13 July 2006

Was the Isle of Wight Act pushed through by one of my hon. Friend’s predecessors, Mark Woodnutt, to stop an Isle of Wight pop festival after the three successful ones held about 30 years ago?

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

It was indeed. I should say that it has been amended twice since then, and the Isle of Wight has once again started holding extremely successful pop festivals, the most recent of which I did not attend because I could hear and enjoy it from my back garden. I attended the previous one and enjoyed it immensely. Some 60,000 people came this year, and I recommend the festivals to all hon. Members.

To get back to—

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

When I raised the matter with councillors and officers of the Isle of Wight council, they told me they had no power to remit any fee payable under the Licensing Act 2003. If that is untrue, I will be glad to hear it. It occurred to me that they may also find themselves without the power to remit fees payable under other Acts, and that we ought to give them that power. It would be entirely discretionary; we are not forcing any local authority to spend any more money than it is currently spending.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West

May I give wholehearted support to my hon. Friend’s new clause? A number of examples can properly be used. For example, on Remembrance Sunday, when organisations including the Royal British Legion want a temporary interruption to traffic, a regulation requires them to apply for a full traffic management order, and a fee is involved. Another example is that of a village that is going to have a popular regatta and wants to ban traffic on a road. In the past, that was done by custom and practice, but the law has been tightened up so that people have to apply for a temporary road closure order.

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Labour, Bishop Auckland

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the issue, which is close to my heart and on which we have tabled amendments to another Bill going through the House, namely the Compensation Bill, which will deal with much of the problem.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West

The Minister may accept the new clause, in which case further debates will not be necessary. The new clause might for some reason need further modification, or the Government might need to co-ordinate—perhaps the Minister will want to talk to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government—to see whether giving the option suggested to local government would be acceptable across government. I know that it is acceptable to local government, which wants control over crucial charges. I strongly support the new clause.

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

I am delighted to have the opportunity at this late stage in our deliberations definitively and finally to restate the Cheltenham principle, which I believe is that if something such as the new clause might require the services of an extremely expensive lawyer to explain that it is not necessary, it might be worth putting it into legislation in the interests of clarity and transparency. If the officers of the Isle of Wight council are under the impression that it is necessary, it is worth supporting. I therefore support the new clause.

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

I am afraid that I disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s interpretation of the Cheltenham  principle. As I remember it, as defined by my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Tom Levitt)—he will correct me if I am wrong—the principle relates to something that is nice but ineffective.

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

The exact wording used a long time ago was that an amendment that was

“harmless, but not entirely necessary”—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 4 July 2006; c. 26.]

should be put into legislation.

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

I stand corrected. The question is whether the new clause fulfils the Cheltenham or any other principle. Local authorities can waive fees and charges to small charities in certain cases. For example, under the Controlled Waste Regulations 1992, local authorities have the discretion to waive a charge for waste collection from premises occupied by a charity.

There may be a danger that the new clause would drive a coach and horses through lots of national charges applied by local authorities. Perhaps the hon. Member for Isle of Wight would not mind that, but it would be more than my job’s worth. Having said that, I shall look at the issue properly and see whether I can take on board some of the spirit of the new clause and do something in a generous and charitable way.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I am grateful for the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, West. He mentioned regattas, and, implicitly, Sea View yacht club. I should mention that I am an honorary member of that club and, as such, a participant, although only from the land side, in the Sea View regatta from time to time.

I am pleased to hear that some fees for charities can be remitted and I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for agreeing to consider the matter. I hope that we shall draw up a definitive list, perhaps before Report, of those local authorities.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West

My hon. Friend is going backwards. Surely the whole point is not to draw up a definitive list, but say that if there is not already discretion for local authorities, they ought to have it.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I assure my hon. Friend that I was not going backwards, merely hoping that we could draw up the list, find out how few opportunities there were for local authorities to remit fees and return to the issue on Report with the support of the Parliamentary Secretary.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West

I should like to put on record that I do not believe that the discretion exists for village halls and other organisations that need to go beyond their temporary entertainment licences. That is one of the things that the Minister should raise in his discussions with other people.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

That example sprang to mind when national scales of charging were mentioned. I think I have said enough; in fact, I know I have—that does not need confirmation. I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for agreeing to consider the matter and I shall  question him closely about his progress on it as soon as we get back from the recess. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.