Charitable Registration — [Jim Dobbin in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:24 pm on 13th November 2012.

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Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Conservative, Peterborough 3:24 pm, 13th November 2012

My hon. Friend makes an intelligent point, as did Robert Flello, who is not in his place. Are we really going to inflict a massive audit process on people who have better things to do: helping the most vulnerable people, in a practical, pragmatic way? There is an issue of fairness as well. Are we to sit by and let an unfashionable minority—a minority that in general people do not understand—be picked off by the apparatus of the state, with such asymmetry? If we are talking about public benefit, is it really a public benefit that my constituents’ taxes are effectively being used to hound people who do good in society? That is not a good use of those taxpayers’ money.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow made it clear that the Charity Commission has some serious questions to answer. As I said earlier, it undertook 20 public benefit assessments between 2009 and 2011, and we need at the very least to re-examine what those achieved and what the ultimate agenda is. It is wrong and inappropriate for the state apparatus to be used against the people whose great work in our communities we have all seen.

I will say just two more things, because others want to speak: we must have a moratorium on any more assessments, until we have properly clarified the law with Ministers, if necessary by way of primary legislation, so that we do not have a grey area between Parliament and the pernicious actions of the super-quango that decides it will cast people out and cause them not to be viable in their communities. That is imperative for the House. Also, it is time that the Attorney-General was invited to invoke his powers to sort out the situation in the interim. The issue is not just defending Christianity: it is defending all faith communities, and it is about fairness and equity. If parliamentarians are here for nothing else, we must defend those things.