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Charity clothing collections :
Parliament and politicians

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London (www.bigfoto.com)

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Introduction

See the related pages listed above for details of how Parliament works - MPs, the House of Commons, House of Lords, Bills, Acts etc.

Parliament produces the laws - the Acts and Regulations - which can be used to control charitable collections.

The politicians' debates leading to the Acts are available free in Hansard   - the official report of proceedings in both Houses - for example the Charities Act 2006.

However, on various other occasions the issue of charitable collections has been raised in Parliament.  Below we give examples.

Jo Swinson MP

Jo Swinson MP (photo from www.joeswinson.org.uk)
Jo Swinson MP

She's a Liberal Democrat - the MP for the East Dunbartonshire constituency, north of Glasgow, Scotland - elected 5 May 2005.

She's taken a keen interest in the issue of bogus 'charity' clothing collections and has spoken on the topic in Parliament on several occasions.  See Hansard   for what she's said.  So far, we've focused on one speech - namely on 28 February 2007 - see below for details.

Jeff Ennis MP

See the debate on 28 October 2009 (summary below). *

Tracey Crouch MP

She's a Conservative - the MP for Chatham and Aylesford (Kent) - elected 6 May 2010.

She's taken a keen interest in the issue of bogus 'charity' clothing collections and has spoken on the topic in Parliament on several occasions.  See Hansard   for what she's said.

 

Note:  In the debates below, the organisations shown in  italics are part of central government.

28 February 2007: Westminster Hall debate on bogus charity collections

The main speaker was Jo Swinson MP.  We've looked closely at the speech she made during this debate  .  Here's our summary and comments.

Organisations mentioned by Ms Swinson :

Regulators :

Collectors :

Other organisations :

Legislation mentioned by her :

Our comments

It's good to see there was a debate specifically on bogus charity collections.

Ms Swinson's speech was detailed, constructive and helpful.

Regarding monitoring and enforcement, she made a number of good points.  Concerning the regulators, she focused on :

She didn't mention local councils - either the licensing (or trading standards) departments - and there was no mention of the 1939 Act.  Maybe she was unaware of the law in England and Wales (she's a Scottish MP) - especially the House to House Collections Act 1939 - which makes it a criminal offence to carry out a collection for a charitable purpose without a licence.

To be fair to Ms Swinson, most people (and most organisations) seem to be unaware of some of the regulators (and legal sanctions) which are relevant to collections.  People know about the police, trading standards and ASA.  But few people seem to know about local council licensing departments (and the 1939 Act).  This is unfortunate because their powers are often the best way of stopping misleading or bogus collections.

The 1939 Act has real teeth - a local council which intercepts an unlicensed charitable collection can use the Act to prosecute the collectors in the local magistrates court.  See the examples of successful prosecutions on the monitoring and enforcement page.

28 October 2009: House of Commons debate

www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2009-10-28c.271.2  

Oral answers to questions in Parliament about bogus charity clothing collections.

Extracts from the debate (bold and carriage returns added by us) :

Jeff Ennis :

"What steps she plans to take to tackle the practice of bogus charitable clothes collections"

Angela Smith :

"I am absolutely appalled that any organisation would try and con people into thinking that it is a charity in order to collect goods from the public that are intended to be sold to raise funds for a charity's important work.

I can tell my hon. Friend that in 2007, the Government, through the Office of the Third Sector, co-ordinated a Give with Care campaign to increase awareness of bogus clothing collections, and we are planning further such public campaigns in the coming months.

We will also continue to encourage enforcement of the legislation." . . .

"I would direct his constituents to look at the campaign that we have been running and the small print on the sacks that are delivered to people's homes to encourage them to donate, because sometimes there is more helpful information there.

I would also suggest that if people want to donate, they might want to go to the charity shop directly. That may be a better way of ensuring that bogus collectors do not get the gifts that are intended for charities."

Comment by Alun Michael (Cardiff South & Penarth, Labour) :

"I think I am right in saying that a case of that sort was taken to court by the local authority in Cardiff recently, resulting in a fine of £750. Perhaps that ought to have been higher, but will my right hon. Friend encourage local authorities and magistrates to use their existing powers to the full to drive these cancerous companies out of business, and to allow the public confidence that what they give goes where it is intended?"

Angela Smith's reply :

"My right hon. Friend makes a pertinent point. I congratulate Cardiff council on taking that prosecution. A £750 fine is significant for those who are involved in such illegal activities, and I will certainly talk to my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government to see how we can work to together to encourage local authorities to enforce their current powers."

Comments by CharityBags

The good news :
Our reservations - what wasn't mentioned (licensing) :

Overall, we felt the debate was valuable.  However, no-one mentioned :

  • The House to House Collections Act 1939.
    (One person referred to councils using 'existing powers' - but no-one said what they were.)
  • the words 'licence' or 'licensing'
  • which council department dealt with the matter (ie the licensing department).

Anyone reading the debate might think they were referring to local council trading standards departments.

It's unfortunate that few people know about collection licensing and the 1939 Act.  So, it would help if people mentioned licensing and/or the Act when they're discussing collections.  See the top of the page on the regulators for more on this.

13 October 2010: Westminster Hall Debate on bogus charity bag collections

For details, see Hansard  

The speakers were :

Tracey Crouch mentioned the following organisations :

Tracey Crouch mentioned the following legislation :

Organisations mentioned by Sarah Newton :

Organisations mentioned by Nick Hurd (Minister) :

Legislation mentioned by Nick Hurd :

 

Palace of Westminster, London (wikimedia.org - Tony Moorey - Creative Commons)
Palace of Westminster, London
(wikimedia.org - Tony Moorey - Creative Commons)