I am absolutely appalled that any organisation would try and con people into thinking that it is a charity in order to collect goods from the public that are intended to be sold to raise funds for a charity’s important work. I can tell my hon. Friend that in 2007, the Government, through the Office of the Third Sector, co-ordinated a Give with Care campaign to increase awareness of bogus clothing collections, and we are planning further such public campaigns in the coming months. We will also continue to encourage enforcement of the legislation.
I thank the Minister for her reply, but two of my constituents, Mr. Dale Rutter and Mr. Mike Hyde, from Sprotbrough in Doncaster my constituency, who do charity collections on behalf of Cancer Research UK, informed me at a recent surgery that the number of bogus charity clothes collection operators working in south Yorkshire is very much on the increase because of the credit crunch. Will the Minister agree to meet me and my constituents to discuss this very important issue in greater detail?
Of course I am happy to meet my hon. Friend, who has a record of campaigning on this issue. I would direct his constituents to look at the campaign that we have been running and the small print on the sacks that are delivered to people’s homes to encourage them to donate, because sometimes there is more helpful information there. I would also suggest that if people want to donate, they might want to go to the charity shop directly. That may be a better way of ensuring that bogus collectors do not get the gifts that are intended for charities.
Would the Minister like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Salvation Army, which is one of the leading clothes collectors and recyclers in the country, and whose depot in Kettering is one of the largest clothes recycling depots in the United Kingdom?
I am always pleased to congratulate a charity that is doing good work. The public can be assured that if a sack comes through their door to collect clothes for the Salvation Army, it is totally genuine.
I think I am right in saying that a case of that sort was taken to court by the local authority in Cardiff recently, resulting in a fine of £750. Perhaps that ought to have been higher, but will my right hon. Friend encourage local authorities and magistrates to use their existing powers to the full to drive these cancerous companies out of business, and to allow the public confidence that what they give goes where it is intended?
My right hon. Friend makes a pertinent point. I congratulate Cardiff council on taking that prosecution. A £750 fine is significant for those who are involved in such illegal activities, and I will certainly talk to my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government to see how we can work together to encourage local authorities to enforce their current powers.