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Payroll Giving

Volume 115: debated on Thursday 30 April 1987

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what information he has about the response to the new payroll giving schemes.


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a further statement about the implementation of payroll giving schemes.

The new payroll giving scheme has made an encouraging start. The Inland Revenue has approved 11 agencies to run the scheme and 300 employers have already signed contracts to participate. I expect many more to follow.

Does my hon. Friend agree that in the figures that he has given those 300 employers represent nealy 1 million employees, and that those figures mark a most auspicious start for the payroll giving scheme? Will he confirm that, since this Government came to power, giving to the 280 charities has already doubled? Does he expect that, with the payroll giving scheme, we shall see a further large increase of charitable giving to charities great and small? Will he also confirm that the administrative costs to employers of operating the schemes will be an expense allowable against tax?

I welcome my hon. Friend's support for the payroll giving scheme. As he said, it has made a most encouraging start. I understand that information about new employers who will be taking part is coming in every day. The scheme will clearly involve a big increase in charitable giving, which has already doubled since the Government came to power in 1979. Already, tax relief of about £500 million is given by the Revenue in respect of charitable giving and we shall be only too pleased if the scheme greatly increases that. So far as I can comment on my hon. Friend's last point, I believe that to be the case, but if there is any problem I shall let him know.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the vast majority of charities do extremely valuable work, which fully deserves the introduction of tax concessions such as the payroll giving scheme, but that organisations such as War on Want, which have used their funds to finance overtly political advertisements, are abusing not only their charitable status but the tax concessions that that status bestows?

I deplore the abuse of charitable status of the sort that my hon. Friend has described. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Baker) made heroic efforts to be in the Chamber to raise the matter earlier, and I know that it is one of widespread concern.

Does the Minister accept that it is an appalling indictment of the Government's policies that an increasing number of well-respected charities, such as Oxfam, along with other well-respected bodies such as the Archbishop of Canterbury's commission on urban priority areas, have felt the need to criticise the Government's policies?

Political behaviour by those involved in charitable work is always to be regretted. However, that does not invalidate the wish of all those in the House to support genuine charitable activities, and I hope that we will be able to continue to do so.

Does not the much increased level of charitable giving give the lie to those who claim that Britain is much less generous under this Government?

The public have been increasingly generous to charitable causes since 1979. As I have said, charitable giving has about doubled. That is one of the beneficial consequences of the strong increase in standards of living and take-home pay, that have been enjoyed at all levels of the population since 1979.

Does the extent of charitable giving show that the people are more compassionate than the Government?

In measures that we have been discussing and in many other ways; the Government are encouraging charitable giving. In this sense I am sure that the Government are entirely with the grain of the population.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the payroll giving scheme has been widely welcomed by many charities, and even by those which are evidently involved in political activities? Will my hon. Friend accept also, however, that the view is gaining ground that some of the giving is almost irrevocable and is difficult to cancel by employees, while some employers regard the scheme as being unduly bureaucratic? Will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to reassure charities, employers and employees that the scheme is easy to administer?

I think that I can give the assurance that my hon. Friend seeks. We went to great lengths to try to ensure that the operation of the scheme would not be unduly onerous or bureaucratic for employers. That is why we insisted on having independent agencies. The excellent start that the scheme has made suggests that it cannot be too off-putting to employers, otherwise there would not be so many of them either already contracted or wishing so to be.