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New Clause 1 - Annual report

Part of Small Charitable Donations Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 30th October 2012.

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Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Party Chair, Co-operative Party 4:30 pm, 30th October 2012

The Minister was characteristically generous in his opening remarks and helpful in his willingness to get answers to the questions triggered by the NCVO's letter. We will reflect on what he said and his response to the new clauses. We take extremely seriously the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle made about our responsibility not to forget the debates that we have in Bill Committees. It would be helpful to write into the Bill the trigger of an annual report, to ensure debate on the scheme’s eligibility criteria and how they have bedded in and played out in practice.

The hon. Member for Stafford encouraged us to see the scheme as a glass half full. I accept that it is a bad analogy, but the Opposition see the scheme as a glass 20% full, so we want to continue to press the Minister. He was not at the helm when the Bill was introduced and we accept that he has sought to respond to some of the charity sector’s concerns. Nevertheless, we hope that he will use the period between now and Report to recognise the case for further reform and that, with hindsight, he will welcome the trigger of an annual report as a means of delivering further reforms.

The Opposition recognise that the Minister is at the start of his career. We want to protect him from the charge of those hard-hearted souls on his Back Benches, who might want to cast him in such a light, that he is in danger of becoming the Minister for red tape. I gently tell him that 80 pages of guidance about registering for gift aid and another 80 pages to come about the scheme ought to worry him. It certainly worries us.

We fear for many of the small charities that would find £1,250, or even half that sum, extremely beneficial in keeping them in business. I say that on the day it was revealed that four fifths of the charities that belong to the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action—the smallest ones—expect their finances to get worse over the next 12 months. This £100 million scheme could be their saviour, but I fear that far too many will not benefit. For that reason, I am afraid that on this occasion the Minister has not convinced me to withdraw the new clause, so I wish to push it to a Division.