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Charities (Regulatory Burden)

Volume 504: debated on Wednesday 27 January 2010

The Government are committed to cutting burdens on charities and other third sector organisations. Further plans outlining how this will be achieved were published last month. The changes that we have already made to charity law and to the accounting and reporting thresholds have resulted in savings for up to 5,000 charities.

Gift Aid is a wonderful thing, but it is complicated to administer and particularly costly for smaller charities. When can we have some sensible proposals from the right hon. Lady to simplify and reform the system?

Gift Aid is a matter for the Treasury. However, I have regular meetings with representatives from the third sector, as well as with Treasury Ministers, who are reviewing the operation of Gift Aid to see what more they can do to assist charities in this regard.

Is it not the case that the Charities Act 2006 brought rationalisation to the regulations governing the charities sector and therefore made it much easier, in many ways, for them to function? Is it not also the case that where third sector organisations are delivering other services such as hospices and so on, they must be regulated in terms of the service that they are delivering? What is important, therefore, is not the quantity but the quality of the regulation that we have imposed.

My hon. Friend, who has vast knowledge of the charitable sector, makes a valid point. This is a matter of balance. We need to ensure that there is adequate regulation to protect donors’ money and the services that they provide, but we do not want to overburden those organisations with unnecessary regulation.

As charities are finding it extremely difficult to maintain income streams because of the fragility of the economy—[Interruption.]

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but there are far too many private conversations taking place in the Chamber. That is very unfair to the hon. Lady and to the Minister answering the question.

I will start again, Mr. Speaker.

As charities are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain income streams, would not now be the very best time to try to reduce the regulatory burden even further to minimise the adverse effects on all charities, including NHS charities?

I do not think the hon. Lady heard my answer to the original question as regards exactly what we are doing. We are publishing plans outlining what more we can do. However, the measures that we have taken to date in relation to charity registration, and other matters, have been welcomed by charities, and we will continue to do what we can to support them.