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Charity Collections

Volume 521: debated on Wednesday 19 January 2011

Stealing from charities is a repulsive crime, but a growing problem, with suspected links to organised crime. It is estimated that up to £50 million a year is lost to bogus collections, which deprive charities of vital income and damage public trust and confidence in them. We are determined to take robust action against people who carry out such crimes.

Last week the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd), who has responsibility for civil society, and apologises for not being able to be here today, chaired a very positive meeting with charities, their collection partners, and the licensing and enforcement agencies to consider ways to tackle the issue. We want to review the licensing legislation and put much greater emphasis on the co-ordination of enforcement action to combat these criminals.

I thank the Minister for his answer. What assurances can he give the House that in our efforts to clamp down on fraudulent collectors we do not create an overly burdensome system that makes it harder for volunteers, on whom many of the charities in my constituency and across the country rely, to give up their time?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. The Charities Act 2006 is due to be reviewed, in the ordinary course of events, later this year, which we will do. It seems to us that the current laws are outdated; they date from many years ago, from a different world. They are not particularly effective at preventing fraudulent collections, yet they can already be very burdensome on legitimate charities. We want to reverse that to make the law easier for legitimate charities but more effective in controlling fraudulent collections.

In taking that important matter forward, what consultation does the Minister propose to have with the devolved Administrations so that best practice might be adopted in tackling that serious issue?

I am confident that the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, who has responsibility for civil society and is taking the initiative forward, will want to collaborate closely with the devolved Administrations in just the way that the right hon. Gentleman suggests.