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Volume 572: debated on Wednesday 11 December 2013

Our recent report encouraging social action set out what we have done to make it easier for people to give time and money, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join me in welcoming the news that volunteering has risen sharply since 2012 after years of decline.

I hope the Minister will elaborate further. Only 9% of people are responsible for giving two-thirds of donations to charity. Will he elaborate on his previous answer?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point and he is right to say that we rely on an extremely generous minority who do most of the giving. Britain has risen in the league table and is now the sixth most generous country in the world. Millions of our fellow citizens and constituents give time on a regular basis, and volunteering has risen since 2012 after years of decline. We think we have made a contribution to that.

May I add my support for the many people who volunteer to support charities? Does my hon. Friend agree that the investigation by the Public Accounts Committee into the pay of senior executives of charities is a good step in the right direction to ensure that volunteers are following people who are being reasonably paid?

I certainly agree that our voluntary sector relies on trust and integrity, and there should be transparency on administration costs and salary expenses. Individual salary pay is not an issue for Government; it is an issue between trustees and donors.

In any discussions the Minister may have with some of the main charities, will he debate with them the need for them to promote their work in a proactive way, while safeguarding against what some regard as assertive and over-aggressive actions by charity collectors who try to obtain direct debits on the street? There is concern about the level of assertiveness on the street.

We certainly do have those conversations with the chief executives of some of the largest charities. The activity the hon. Gentleman describes raises at least £100 million a year, so we cannot ignore that. We must, however, ensure that it is regulated effectively so it does not put people off and tarnish the brands of the charities we need to support.

Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking the many people in my constituency who work for charities and who volunteer? Will he update the House on what is happening in schools to encourage the next generation of young people to work for charities and volunteer more?

My hon. Friend is a great champion of the voluntary sector in her constituency. I am delighted to place on record my appreciation of volunteers across the country. As she points out, it is vital that we inspire the next generation. That is why national programmes, such as the National Citizen Service and the cross-sector and cross-party campaign—Step up to Service—we support to double the number of young people involved in regular volunteering are so important. I hope she welcomes them.