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Charities (Legislation)

Volume 588: debated on Wednesday 19 November 2014

2. When he next plans to meet the Charity Commission to discuss the operation of legislation relating to charities. (906074)

I met the chair of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross, and its chief executive officer, Paula Sussex, last month, shortly before we published the draft Protection of Charities Bill. I will continue to meet them on a regular basis.

I welcome my hon. Friend to his well-deserved appointment. Does he agree that, under its new leadership, the Charity Commission is proving to be a much more effective regulator than it was a few years ago? Does he agree also that any organisation that encourages extremism of any kind should lose its charitable status and that, although the Charity Commission is getting tougher, it needs to get tougher still?

I do indeed. In the past, the Charity Commission was rightly criticised for regulatory failings. It now has new leadership, as I mentioned, with a strong board and a new chief executive officer. The Prime Minister has just given it an additional £8 million, and it will hopefully get new powers through the draft Protection of Charities Bill.

I think that my hon. Friend was referring to the concerns that were expressed on the front page of The Times this week about the threat from terrorism and extremism. The House needs to recognise that there is a threat to charities of abuse for terrorism purposes. For example, three men were convicted in 2013 for fraudulently using Muslim Aid charity logos to collect £14,000. I am right behind the Charity Commission in its efforts to ensure that it is a strong and robust organisation.

I am glad that the charities Minister will meet the Charity Commission. As a matter of urgency, will he also meet Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and his colleagues in the Treasury to sort out the nonsense whereby smaller charities in particular find it difficult to set up the gift aid system? That is a correct tax relief, but it is not going to many charities because of the red tape involved.

I will be happy to meet HMRC. I would say that we have the autumn statement coming up, and the hon. Lady might like to look out for anything that might appear in it.

In his discussions with the Charity Commission, will the Minister see how it can encourage the development of charitable community funds that tap into the desire of local people to support local charities?

I thank my hon. Friend for all the work that he does. I hope that he and people in his constituency will support Giving Tuesday, which is on 2 December. That is a great opportunity for smaller charities to raise substantial sums of money and I hope that he will support it along with me.