Clause 70

Charities Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:15 pm on 13 July 2006.

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Power of Secretary of State to give financial assistance to charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institutions

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I beg to move amendment No. 47, in clause 70, page 75, line 16, after ‘conditions’, insert

‘, which shall be proportionate to the risk of loss or abuse of public money and the capacity of the institution to comply therewith,’.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 48, in clause 70, page 75, line 16, at end insert—

‘(3A) Where financial assistance is given in return for the delivery of a service, the Secretary of State shall ensure that a reasonable opportunity is given to a range of institutions to offer to deliver to the service.’.

No. 49, in clause 71, page 76, line 25, after ‘conditions’, insert

‘, which shall be proportionate to the risk of loss or abuse of public money and the capacity of the institution to comply therewith,’.

No. 50, in clause 71, page 76, line 25, at end insert—

‘(3A) Where financial assistance is given in return for the delivery of a service, the assembly shall ensure that a reasonable opportunity is given to a range of institutions to offer to deliver to the service.’.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

There are two purposes to these amendments. Amendments Nos. 47 and 48 would require a degree of proportionality in the Secretary of State’s activities. I am concerned about regulation being introduced through the back door. However, it is likely that I shall accept suitable assurances from the Parliamentary Secretary in that respect.

Amendments Nos. 49 and 50 deal with how Governments—not just the present one—sometimes feel the need to set up a charitable vehicle to undertake part of their activities even though there might already be a suitable vehicle to undertake the work. The example I have in mind is the Experience Corps, the purpose of which was to encourage more people to get involved in charities, particularly people close to or beyond retirement age. I had a conversation with the director of one organisation who questioned whether her organisation would not have been equally capable of doing exactly the same job, without the establishment of an organisation that began to look like a Government vehicle rather than a genuine charity and that cost a huge amount of money.

In a parliamentary answer to me on 12 September 2005, the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Paul Goggins), then a Home Office Minister, told me that the Experience Corps

“received approximately £20 million from the Home Office” and that its

“target was to recruit 250,000 new volunteers”.

However, as of December 2003, it had only

“recruited over 153,000 volunteers”.—[Official Report, 12 September 2005; Vol. 436, c. 2633W.]

Even my arithmetic is up to calculating that that works out at £130,000 per volunteer. Sometimes we ought to ask the Government whether they could not have acted more efficiently. That is the purpose of amendments Nos. 48 and 50.

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

I sympathise with the intentions behind the amendments, but I hope that I can satisfy the hon. Gentleman that they are unnecessary.

On amendments Nos. 47 and 49, the compact of good practice, which was agreed between the Government and the voluntary sector and with which the hon. Gentleman will be familiar, is important because it covers precisely the issues that he discussed, including proportionality in monitoring requirements. He was right to raise the matter, because the interaction between the Government and the voluntary sector is important and we must get our practice right in that area. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman’s amendments would add all that much to what already exists, but I am sympathetic to the intentions behind them.

I shall deal briefly with amendments Nos. 48 and 50. Again, I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s view, but the distinction that I would draw is that the Government are often not best placed to disburse funds. It should not necessarily be the job of the new Office of the Third Sector to spend lots of time filtering grant applications. For example, V, a new charity for young people, will distribute resources on an arm’s length and independent basis to organisations that encourage volunteering opportunities for young people. It is better to use the voluntary sector’s expertise to do that sort of thing than to do it within Government.

However, that does not detract from the hon. Gentleman’s point. When the Government consider setting up new vehicles and institutions, we must be careful not to duplicate existing bodies that could do the job better. The compact is designed to cover that, too. I take his point in both cases, but hope that on the basis of reassuring words and firm intentions on my part, he will withdraw his amendments.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West

May I ask the Minister to help the Committee on a couple of points? Subsection (6) says that the Secretary of State

“may make arrangements for...assistance under subsection (1) to be given”— that is, financial assistance—or he may delegate the matter. Could the hon. Gentleman give the Committee one or two illustrative examples of hypothetical or actual cases in which the Secretary of State might want that power?

Subsection (10)(b) mentions

“an institution (other than a charity) which is established for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes.”

I am not too concerned about the benevolent or philanthropic purposes, but will the Minister give an illustrative example of something that is not a charity that is established for charitable purposes?

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

I thought you might be about to call the hon. Member for Isle of Wight, Mr. Gale, but sadly not.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

Order. The Minister is not compelled to respond, but if I call the hon. Member for Isle of Wight, I shall wind up the debate.

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

No, I am happy to respond, Mr. Gale. I was not seeking to question the Chair and your wisdom.

I answered the first question put by the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley) in my previous remarks. An example such as he asks for is an institution that is set up by the Government and disburses Government funds. Such bodies include V, which is encouraging youth volunteering, and Future Builders, which is providing loans and grants to institutions and charities that want to help deliver public services.

An example of an institution other than a charity that is established for charitable purposes is Amnesty International, which is not a charity but does have charitable purposes. I hope that that is helpful to him and the Committee.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I am grateful for the warm words of the Minister. I am even more grateful for his firm intentions. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 70 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 71 ordered to stand part of the Bill.