I have felt particularly strongly about this issue since hearing about a spate of incidences across Chatham, leading me to seek time for a debate in Parliament where it was my hope to at least highlight to the Minister that this issue is getting out of control and needs some tough action from the top. My speech centred on the complexity of outdated legislation allowing bogus charity collectors to continue to defraud genuine donations to charities, without fear of repercussion. I also felt I needed to highlight the half-hearted approach of the majority of authorities in bringing the criminals to justice.
The Minister's response was encouraging and it now seems as though there may finally be some meaningful progress in tackling the issue. He agreed with me that beginning with a review of the Charities Act 2006, the main legislative document relating to charities, is essential to providing the legal base on which the thieves can be prosecuted. He also confirmed that in light of this debate, he would be writing to the Ministry of Justice asking what degree of deterrence was in place and whether there is any scope to impose harsher punishments for those found guilty. In addition he will also be writing to the Association of Chief Police Officers asking why this criminal activity, worth £14 million a year to charity, is seemingly not a police priority.
However, whilst I welcome the Minister's interventions, if we are to combat bogus charity collections and restore trust in charity donations, we will need firm commitments from the Government and an acceptance that this is a serious and far-reaching crime, not just warm words of support.
The Minister during his reply also offered me a place at a "Government roundtable" which will be responsible for co-ordinating the progress in combating bogus charity collections. It is my intention to accept his offer where I will ensure that the Government delivers on restoring trust, punishing those found guilty and improving the legislation.
The transcript of the debate can be found HERE.