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Voluntary and Community Sector

Volume 558: debated on Wednesday 6 February 2013

The Government are doing a great deal in trying to increase the capacity and capability of the sector. One of the most important things that we have done is launch the world’s first social investment institution, Big Society Capital, which will have £600 million on its balance sheet. That will enable it to increase the social investment market and make it easier for charities and social enterprises to gain access to capital.

Will my hon. Friend congratulate the newly formed Wymering Manor Trust in my constituency on securing the manor as a community asset? In stark contrast to the smooth running of that transfer, the obstacles that the community have encountered in trying to buy out Portsmouth football club, and the culture that they have encountered in the world of football, have been dreadful. What more can be done to help fans to own and govern their local clubs, and to stop football being a big society-free zone?

I am delighted to congratulate the trust, not least because I understand that it is chaired by Conservatives. Let me also wish the supporters of Portsmouth football club well in their endeavours. The Government are trying to help communities to realise their dreams, and if there is anything that our Department or Big Society Capital can do to support that community, my hon. Friend must let me know.

I think that there is a different story. I visited the office of Fairplay in Derbyshire the other Friday and met the people there who look after, for instance, disabled teenagers. I have also visited various other voluntary organisations. Their story is that they are being cut left, right and centre, and are having a job making ends meet. When will the Government support the voluntary workers who are trying to rescue those people, and to help all kinds of individuals? This really has reached a chronic stage. Get something done!

We are doing a great deal. I totally accept what the hon. Gentleman says: there is a lot of pressure on charities in all our constituencies. We all know that there is less money around, but I would like to hear a little more honesty and recognition from the Opposition Benches as to why the cuts in public expenditure are necessary. They are the direct result of the fiscal incontinence of the hon. Gentleman’s party’s Government.

As the Minister reflects on the capacity of the voluntary sector, he will surely consider in particular the capacity of the Charity Commission—which has been cut by a third on his watch—to prevent charities such as Cup Trust from being used for huge levels of tax avoidance. Is the Minister convinced that the new head of the commission understands the seriousness of the situation, and is a cross-Government plan now in place to prevent such a repeat?

Yes. Under this Government, we have sent a very clear message to the Charity Commission that we expect it to hunker down on its core responsibility of regulating the sector and protecting its integrity, and, under the new chairman, we expect that to happen.