HC Deb 07 July 1976 vol 914 cc1559-76

10.31 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Guy Barnett)

I beg to move, That the Chairman do now report to the House that the Committee recommend that the Rating (Charity Shops) Bill [Lords] ought to be read a Second time. This Bill is one which right hon. and hon. Members have been urging us to introduce. It is a short and simple Bill. Its sole purpose is to amend the law relating to rate relief for charity gift shops for England and Wales and for Scotland.

The law concerning rate relief for charities in England and Wales is contained in Section 40 of the General Rate Act 1967. Scotland has her own provisions in Section 4 of the Local Government (Financial Provisions Etc.) (Scotland) Act 1962. The provisions are virtually identical.

Rating authorities must give not less than 50 per cent. rate relief to any hereditament—I am quoting from Section 40 of the 1967 Act— occupied by, or by trustees for, a charity and wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes (whether of that charity or of that and other charities); or (b) any other hereditament, being a hereditament held upon trust for use as an almshouse…". In addition, rating authorities have discretion to grant further relief to charities and certain other organisations. In short, rating authorities must give 50 per cent. rate relief to charities and they may give relief on the whole or part of the remaining 50 per cent.

In 1972 Birmingham City Council contended that while the nine Oxfam gift shops in its area were indeed occupied by a charity, they were not wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes because raising money by trading was not a charitable purpose of the charity. This contention was upheld last year on appeal to the House of Lords.

I want to explain how this has affected the shops run by the charities. Although I have no statistics on the point, I think it is true to say that most shops run by charities are wholly or mainly engaged in selling goods donated to the charity. Before the Oxfam ruling, these shops, known as gift shops, were granted rate relief, but as a result of the ruling they no longer get it.

The remaining shops run by charities fall into one of two categories and it is important that the Committee knows which they are. There are those called trading shops—that is, shops wholly or mainly selling goods bought under normal trading conditions. These goods may be specially made for the charity—for example, Christmas cards, tea towels, biros and so on. In the case of Oxfam, the charity conceded that had its shops fallen into this category, it would not have expected to receive rate relief on them.

The second category of shops are those mostly engaged in selling goods produced in furtherance of the charity's activities. A good example of this kind of shop would be one owned by a charity for the blind, selling goods produced mainly by the blind. Also, one could imagine a shop, though I do not know if there is one, which Oxfam might run under its "Helping by Selling" programme, whereby it sold goods wholly or mainly made by the people whom it is their object to assist.

The Birmingham City Council conceded that that kind of shop, the one for the blind and the Oxfam shop in the "Helping by Selling" programme, would, in their view, have qualified for rate relief.

Perhaps I should explain why it is held that gift shops should not receive relief on rates. It is because entitlement to rate relief is dependent on the premises being used for charitable purposes. That was held to mean purposes directly related to the objects of the charity, not simply raising money which was not a charitable purpose of the charity. The ruling came as a severe blow to the affected charities and the Government had a great deal of sympathy with their plight. We promised, therefore, to take steps to rectify the situation, and this we are now doing in the Bill.

The provisions of the Bill are simple and straightforward. There is only one main clause, its purpose being to restore not less than 50 per cent. mandatory relief and discretionary rate relief to charity gift shops. This is done in England and Wales by inserting a new clause after Section 40(9) of the General Rate Act 1967, stating that a hereditament is used wholly or mainly for charitable purposes if it is used wholly or mainly for the sale of goods donated to a charity and the proceeds of the sale are applied for the purpose of the charity. Similar provisions are inserted at the end of Section 4 of the Local Government Act (Financial Provisions Etc.) (Scotland) 1962.

There is, however, one small difference between the English, Welsh and Scottish provisions. This concerns the special transitional arrangements for Scotland in Clause 1(3) of the Bill.

In Scotland a charity may qualify for mandatory relief for the first year claimed only if notice is given to the rating authority not later than 30th June. As this date has now passed, we are proposing to set aside the time limit for 1976–77. A similar provision is not required for England and Wales, because there is no time limit for notice to be given. In Scotland, England and Wales the provisions of the Bill will come into effect from the date of enactment.

This measure has been widely welcomed by the charities concerned. During its passage through another place it was greeted as an excellent and necessary amendment and was much welcomed. I hope that hon. Members will welcome it similarly in this Committee.

It will not have escaped the notice of hon. Members that the Bill passed through the other place with the maximum of speed. I hope that here it will have an equally swift passage so that charities may soon benefit from its provisions.

10.39 a.m.

Mr. Michael Morris

May I first declare an interest in that in my capacity as director of an advertising agency, I advise "Save the Children", and have declared the same in the Members' interests returns.

It is the Opposition's view that this Bill should be welcomed, and we shall do all in our power to speed its passage. But before it is speeded on its way, I should like to make one or two observations on the history of this case and, indeed, on the implications of the Bill as it is drafted, because, although we shall probably have a speedy Committee stage, there are one or two fringe areas of charity trading that ought at least to be mentioned now and considered for inclusion by amendment.

As the hon. Gentleman said, the Bill puts right something which inadvertently went wrong. It is not for us this morning to go into the reasons why Birmingham City Council chose in 1972 to run this case, but from the charities' point of view it has taken a distressingly long time for this anomaly to be put right. From the charities' point of view, particularly from the point of view of those who run their finances, this cloud has been over them for the best part of four years. That is a long time—too long, I believe most of those involved with charities would think.

While welcoming the Bill, I hope that if in future other considerations affect the finances of charities, no Government, regardless of their political persuasion, will allow such a period to elapse. I hope that the legal profession will take note of that, because there is some evidence to suggest that the time taken to complete the legal procedures is too long.

The Bill arises because of the nature of the development of charities and their trading functions, something which did not happen until about the mid-1960s and which has blossomed in the past few years.

The losses alluded to by the hon. Gentleman have been very substantial. I have taken the liberty during the last couple of days to contact a number of charities, besides the one for which I do some work. Help the Aged reports a loss of £100,000 profit plus an extra £25,000 on its rate bill; Oxfam, which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, claims a loss of about £250,000 across its 600 shops, all of which are staffed by about 15,000 voluntary workers.

As far as I can find out, there are about 19 charities at present which run or manage gift shops. The financial losses have been very real to these charities, and we should take note of the fact. That is partly the reason why we believe that we should give a fair wind to this measure.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the historical basis of this problem. The key dimensions reach back to 1948 when the decision was taken that the assessment function should be that of the Inland Revenue. The peculiar wording of the 1967 Act was, I think, the real key, that any hereditament occupied by, or by trustees for, a charity and wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes", because it implied that some activities were not for charitable purposes. Other than perhaps the lawyers, I think that most hon. Members would feel that any charity running a shop is, in fact, undertaking charity work because, while the goods themselves may not be donated, all the proceeds therefrom go to charity work, and many of us would think that we were splitting hairs in the terminology of that section of the Act.

I want to spend a few moments dealing with the types of trading activity that are undertaken by charities. There are the activities covered by the Bill; those are reasonably clear and understood. In addition, there are the activities mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, such as the workshops for the blind and their shops. They have been going for a long time and are recognised as such.

There are two other sorts of trading, one of which can be broken down into two parts. First, there is the middle ground. A new technique has commendably been devised by charities known colloquially as "fifty-fifty shops". A person has a form of merchandise that is no longer needed in the home, but the value is greater than he is prepared to give away; the charity believes that there is a market for the piece of merchandise, the value of which might usually be more than that of the usual jumble sale and smaller ticket items—it might be £2, £3 or even as much as £10. Half the proceeds go to the vendor and half to the charity, and there is a substantial net gain to the charity.

I am not clear whether "fifty-fifty shops" are included in this provision. At the moment it says "mainly". I am not sure whether that means that charities from now on will have to insist on keeping 52 per cent. or 51 per cent. or 49 per cent. If they are not included, we should look at this in Committee.

Mr. Guy Barnett

If I can help the hon. Gentleman, I think that the shops dealing wholly or mainly on the fifty-fifty basis are not included in the provisions of the Bill as it stands.

Mr. Morris

I am grateful to the Minister for that clarification. I think we should reserve our position for Committee stage and discuss then whether they should be included in the mandatory rebate.

The other type of trading is pure trading. My view is that these activities are as much charity work as is the work of the volunteer shops where the merchandise is donated, because the benefits of all that work go to the needs that all the charities meet. I understand the technical arguments that they are in business and therefore they should pay their fair share, and one should recognise that if this activity were allowed to develop willy-nilly—an enormous development across every town in the country—small businesses would have a justifiable area of concern, because one could see it getting out of hand and a degree of unfair competition arising.

Having talked to Save the Children, Help the Aged, Oxfam and the others, I can say that they accept for the moment that the pure trading shops should bear rates; although I think they would look to their local authorities, which can, under Section 137, of the Local Government Act 1972 give some degree of rate relief.

There is one aspect on which the charities do not accept the present position, which again I think we should look at in Committee, namely, the seasonal trading in Christmas cards. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are two main bodies dealing with this seasonal trade. One is the Combined Charity Christmas Card Council, which covers just over 90 charities. The great benefit of this council is that it enables the very small charities to carry out a trading activity at one time of the year and to get the benefit of that activity. Last year this body paid a rate bill of £7,000 for just six shops. It had seven shops, but the seventh was in the Royal Exchange, and it is granted that free of charge by the Mercers Company. Its rates as a percentage of turnover rose from 12½ per cent. to 14 per cent. of revenue. That is a substantial charge.

I think most people who buy Christmas cards would prefer that that 14 per cent. went to the charities rather than to the local authorities. I suspect that if we were to ask the local authorities themselves, they would say that that revenue was best spent by the charities rather than by the local town hall, because for the town hall the figures are fairly small but to the small charities they are significant. Secondly, there is the 59 Group of charities.

That is therefore one aspect at which we should look. Both these bodies have been badly hit by this matter. Perhaps the Government would look at that aspect between now and the Committee stage, restricting it to the seasonal activity and not to the main trading activities. There may be legal implications about how it could be tracked down to just that seasonal aspect. I know there has been correspondence with the hon. Gentleman's Department from the Combined Charity Christmas Card Council. I hope that he will have a careful look at this matter.

Something which all of us ought to bear in mind which comes home to all who work for charities is that there is a danger of the larger charities squeezing out the smaller ones. One reason why charities are not allowed to advertise on television is basically that the larger charities would have the financial ability to advertise to raise revenue to the exclusion of smaller charities. When the sponsored stamps scheme at the Post Office was conceived, it was spread over a number of charities in order that the smaller ones would not be adversely affected by the larger. Parliament should safeguard the position of the smaller charities while encouraging the work of the larger ones.

We shall give the Bill a fair passage. That contrasts with charities' attitude on the Community Land Act and the Development Land Tax Bill. It is appropriate to tell the Minister that the charities are still very worried about the Community Land Act and they cannot see why, if the Government are accepting and encouraging this Bill, they turned down the new clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Wakeham) in the Chamber the other evening.

Those are slightly wider issues, but if the Government wish to help charities, which the Opposition welcome, we hope that this relatively small area of charity work is a sign of a change of heart on the part of the Government and they will look again at some of the other areas where the implications are, frankly, horrific in terms of the future development of charities.

We welcome the Bill, as I said, and we shall give it a speedy passage. We should like the Government to consider the fifty-fifty situation and the seasonal charity shop question so that we may discuss them during the Committee stage. I reserve the right to table probing amendments when we reach that stage.

10.54 a.m.

Mr. Robin Corbett (Hemel Hempstead)

I welcome this Bill and the speed with which the Government have introduced it but I regret very much that its scope is not wider. Although it will help the situation created by the decision in the case of Oxfam v. Birmingham City Council, it makes worse the position of a lot of small charities.

When the original decision was announced, a number of councils, including my own district council, felt it right to end the rate relief which they were then giving on a nearly-new shop selling good quality nearly-new clothes. This is an enterprise in which six local charities share. The matter was referred to the House of Lords and it subsequently led to this Bill. It was the view of my district council that the terms in which the Bill is drawn do not allow it to apply rate relief to the enterprise. The enterprise is not run on a fifty-fifty basis of commission, although commission is paid because the clothes which are given to the shop have far more value than one would normally expect to get at, say, a jumble sale. Good quality clothes are sold there and keen shoppers know that it is worth going a little out of their way to keep an eye on the shop window.

The Bill overlooks the point that for real people—and I do not include lawyers —there should be a distinction made between the shops whose proceeds are applied wholly or mainly for the purposes of charity and those which are run for commercial purposes. I do not believe that it is beyond the wit of man to arrive at such a definition. The one common denominator among all charitable enterprises is that the proceeds are applied to the benefit of the charity. I acknowledge that this begs the question about the way in which the goods get into the shop and the relationship between the people who do the selling and those who give or donate the goods.

However, not only has there been no opposition from members of the local chamber of trade and commerce in my area, but, in fact, they were extremely helpful in the establishment of the shop. There are two important differences, apart from the nature of the trade that they undertake. First, this particular shop is run entirely by unpaid voluntary staff. Therefore, it is open for only a couple of afternoons a week, although a special effort may be made at Christmas to open the shop on a Saturday morning. Secondly, the shop is open for a relatively small number of hours a week.

Therefore, I hope that the Government will take another look at this matter. At a time when local authorities—district councils, county councils, and so on—are not only being asked to restrain public spending but are faced with cuts in real terms in these areas, it is farcical for the Committee to make even more difficult the job of the local charities which do so much to supplement, and in some cases take over, what is rightly the responsibility of the social services, which, because of financial considerations, cannot carry out these duties, especially at a time when the standard of services generally is to be lowered and the spread is to be narrowed. It is farcical to say to local charities "We are going to make your life even tougher because, although in the past you enjoyed rate relief, under the terms of the Bill you are not going to get it."

I do not want to flog the point. I know that the Minister believes that this is a wide step which he does not think Parliament would be prepared to support. It is my view that if the House fully understood what was involved—namely, that it does not help every charity equally —it would determine that the Bill should be changed. I therefore hope that the Minister will take on board these points and look at the matter again.

10.59 a.m.

Sir John Gilmour (Fife, East)

I should like to add a short word of welcome to the Bill and reinforce what both the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken have said in relation to the shops not opening all the time. I have made inquiries locally and found that there was a considerable number of shops, such as the nearly-new shop which the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) mentioned, which are open for only one or two days or one or two afternoons a week. Therefore, an unfair burden of rating could be thrown on such establishments.

I do not think that there is any need for me to add to what has already been said, but I hope that we shall look a little deeper into the possibility of an extension in cases of this type.

11.0 a.m.

Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)

I, too, welcome the Bill. I should like to speak mainly because of representations I have received from a charity with which I am linked, and also from volunteers who give their services in a shop only to find that rates are being charged on their services. They feel very deeply about it. Oxfam, for example, quotes a figure of 16,000 to 17,000 voluntary workers who help in its shops who have a sense of grievance about rates being paid.

I should like to associate myself with the remarks made about smaller charities. They should be covered and the Government should find a way of overcoming this difficulty. There may be technical snags, but many local authorities with shopping precincts, where there are empty shops, would welcome the opportunity of a charity shop being opened in that precinct. At least, it gives a sense of activity in the precinct and may add to the life of small shopping areas where there is an empty shop. That is worth considering as well.

That the social services should have their funds augmented by voluntary organisations is absolutely vital. I would go a stage further. I should like the Government to consider priming charities with money to allow them to continue their work at a time of severe cutbacks. Often, voluntary organisations get their priorities right. They go in the right direction for the right target. Social services are being cut at present, and anything which allows more money to flow in that direction would be welcome.

The organisation that has made strong representations to me is Oxfam. It points out that 15,000 to 16,000 people work in their shops on a voluntary basis. Within the Bill there is the right to give a 50 per cent. rebate but 100 per cent. can be given if thought desirable. Oxfam pointed out that, if it received the 50 per cent., it would mean £125,000 to it. If a local authority decides to give 100 per cent., it means £250,000. At a time when we are cutting back on our overseas aid, or not doing as well as we ought to be doing, we should be encouraging a healthy Oxfam to do even better work.

One other feature of Oxfam's activities is worth mentioning. It is for the benefit of our society as well that Oxfam, by its own work, can go into village communities overseas, buy products for which it is difficult to get a market, bring them to this country and sell them. The wider these activities go, the greater will be the pump-priming activities in the overseas countries themselves.

Finally, I hope that we shall be as quick as the other place on Third Reading. It was a model of a Third Reading—one line.

11.3 a.m.

Mr. Guy Barnett

I should like to reply to the various points made during this helpful and useful debate. At the outset, I must say how much I welcome the atmosphere which obtained in another place and the general admiration for the work which the great variety of charities in this country do.

Oxfam is a large charity, and charities stretch right down to the very small ones which have been mentioned and to which I want to refer later. But, whatever our political attitudes, I think we are all united on the great value of charities, and I want particularly to echo the remarks that have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) about the important help which charities can give by supplementing the work done by the social service departments of local authorities. At present, they have an especially important role to play. Indeed, I would go further and agree with my hon. Friend that so often charities are able to point the way because they are small and flexible and, because they rely to such a degree on voluntary assistance, they are often innovators. They have made a very important contribution in the past, and they will, I am sure, want to do so increasingly in future. The view on both sides of the Committee is that we want to see the Bill enacted as quickly as possible to restore the situation as it was understood to be before the Birmingham case arose.

It was a little hard of the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris) to suggest that there had been great delay, and I was grateful when later he laid the blame on the courts rather than on the Government. I do not think we were as quick as we might have been if we had been rushing for the winning post. but, nevertheless, I do not think that we can be accused of delay in getting this Bill before the House. Whatever may have happened in the courts is obviously no matter for me, but the Government have done well to get the Bill through the Lords and presented to the House as quickly as they have.

I want to deal as best I can with the main points that have arisen, and try to explain the thinking that led me to draft the Bill in a narrow way, as many hon. Members have remarked. It is not for lack of sympathy or approval for the work which bodies like the Hemel Hempstead Council of Social Service have done, or for the charitable purposes which they serve. This inevitably is a difficult issue for hon. Members who are lawyers, because they will appreciate—whatever my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) may think of lawyers—the vital importance of our law being clearly defined. Previously it was not clearly defined, or at least there was a large area of doubt as to what the law was. Presumably it was because of that that Birmingham City Council decided to test in the courts the case of the nine Oxfam charities in its area, and won.

But the area of doubt was wider than that. I am informed that there was a certain doubt about the Christmas card shops and, indeed, about charities which were referred to by my hon. Friend as fifty-fifty shops. It was first and foremost because we wanted to have clear legislation that we defined the Bill as narrowly as we did.

The point at issue in the Oxfam case was whether charity shops which sell donated goods are eligible for rate relief. The purpose of this legislation is to reverse the decision that was made on that case. There was much more doubt in people's minds about whether Christmas card shops and fifty-fifty shops were eligible for rate relief; some local authorities gave it, some did not. But it was not tested in the courts, and this is a small measure which the Government have introduced deliberately to reverse the decision which affected Oxfam and certain other charities that fell into this specific category and were seriously affected.

As the hon. Member for Northampton, South rightly pointed out, it had serious effects on charities. He quoted a figure of £250,000, with which I concur, for Oxfam, and other charities were similarly badly affected, whereas the local authorities, by and large, were minimally affected by this rating relief provision.

The purpose of the legislation was to reverse an immediate decision. The Committee will, no doubt, understand that the Government are naturally reluctant to go further by admitting other forms of charity at this stage. There was undoubtedly a large area of doubt in people's minds about Christmas card shops and fifty-fifty shops, and we thought it right to deal with the narrow situation and perhaps reserve consideration of the wider issues to which the hon. Gentleman referred until we have looked at the Layfield Report, and the whole business of rates, particularly with regard to charities, is considered.

Incidentally, some hon. Gentlemen may be aware that the Layfield Committee made the interesting suggestion that the 50 per cent. rate relief which local authorities will be obliged to allow charities should come through Government grant and that the discretionary element should be a local authority matter and paid for by the local authority. This interesting suggestion is only one which the Layfield Committee made. I think it would be wrong for this Committee, and for the House, at this stage, to introduce new matters of principle upon which, conceivably, we may not be agreed.

I should also say that though primarily and obviously we are concerned with Oxfam, such contact as we have had with charities has been with Oxfam representing a wide variety of charities which have been affected in this kind of way. The suggestion has been made by more than one hon. Gentleman during the debate that somehow or other we are likely to discriminate, in the narrow shape in which the Bill is drawn, against the small charities. I do not think that is the case, and I cannot believe so since Oxfam, in representations made to me and to the Department, was representing charities both large and small.

I note that in a letter written by Oxfam to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, amongst the organisations represented were the Hemel Hempstead Council of Social Service, which has been quoted as a small charity, and a further small charity—the Carr-Gomm Society. I happen to know the gentleman who runs that organisation. These are two examples of small societies which, so far as I am aware, are happy with the way in which Oxfam has presented their case and have asked for the legislation which we are now considering.

We are aware of the problem of the fifty-fifty or commission shops—however they are described—and I would not dissent in any way from what has been said of the way in which these shops operate. Suffice it to say that in most cases they are fifty-fifty shops, but I am interested to learn from my hon. Friend that in Hemel Hempstead the percentage is different. Nevertheless there is no difference of principle.

If the situation is one whereby a private individual brings clothes to the shop, deposits them in the shop—which I understand is the way in which these things operate—and a suit of clothes, for example, is sold to another person, the person who originaly brought that suit gets his 50 per cent., or the appropriate percentage, and the charity retains the rest. Therefore, the charity would not—this is an attempt to answer more clearly the point raised by the hon. Gentleman—fall within the provisions of the Bill as the goods were never at any stage donated. They were deposited in the shop on a form of sale or return basis.

I think the hon. Gentleman will realise the consequences of this situation, of which the Committee should also be aware and take on board when it makes its decision, namely that not only the charity but the person who brought the goods to the shop will, to some degree, gain from the rate relief. That person will obtain his percentage and, therefore, he, perhaps only to a small degree, will benefit as a consequence of the rate relief which, for the local authority, is mandatory as to 50 per cent. and discretionary as to the remainder.

Therefore I think the Committee should think carefully before deciding that someone who has deposited such goods, possibly with the best of motives, should obtain relief.

I mention this not out of prejudice against relatively rich people, but the fact is that the people who are likely to be in a position to give the sort of good quality clothes that my hon. Friend was referring to are likely to be in the upper rather than the lower income bracket. I think the Committee should take that point into account before pressing too hard for a change in the situation.

Mr. Michael Morris

I think the hon. Gentleman is overstressing the motives. The income group of those who donate, I should have thought, was hardly the point at issue. The real point at issue is whether it is of benefit to the charity. So long as charities believe it is beneficial, that is what should interest us in this Committee.

I hope that the Minister will take on board the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) and the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) about those "nearly new" and fifty-fifty shops which have restricted hours of trading. I can see that there might be difficulty in a six-day trading situation but, as both hon. Gentlemen mentioned, the vast majority of these enterprises are run very much on a voluntary basis, with very restricted hours of opening—perhaps two days a week, or one day a week, or only at lunchtime. I hope the Government will look very seriously at that matter.

Mr. Barnett

We shall certainly look into that. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, because it enables me to explain that I was not pressing the point hard. All I am arguing is that in logic it would perhaps be wrong to allow a situation in which it could be said that people who deposited goods in such shops obtained an element of rate relief.

That is the only point I want to make, not because I regard it as a powerful or overriding case by itself, but because it could have a wider implication with respect to Christmas cards, to which hon. Members have referred. If we admit that, we must also admit the Christmas card problem. I find myself in a certain amount of difficulty over that problem, too. Here, there was a considerable area of doubt between one local authority and another as to whether the Christmas card shop was entitled to rate relief. So, at that time, there was a certain muddiness—if I may put it that way—about the law.

Here again, presumably, the Christmas cards which were being sold, and which were the main or complete business of certain shops, are printed by private firms which make profits. I am not making any argument about that, but the fact is that if rate relief were to be given to those shops, the Committee ought to

Spence, Mr. John (Chairman) Lewis, Mr. Kenneth
Barnett, Mr. Guy Mather, Mr.
Carter-Jones, Mr. Morris, Mr. Michael
Corbett, Mr. Snape, Mr.
Gilmour, Sir John Walden, Mr. Brian
Gourlay, Mr.

appreciate that the rate relief would also, presumably, to some degree, benefit those people who were engaged in perfectly fair and reasonable commercial business. Nevertheless it is an argument that the Committee may want to consider if and when we decide to look at this matter in Committee.

In the light of the obvious interest in this subject and the strength with which the point of view has been expressed on both sides of the Committee, I feel, it would be quite wrong for me to leave the Committee without any undertaking to look closely and carefully at the issue. But I ought also to remind the Committee that this was not a representation that we received from Oxfam which, as we understood, was genuinely representing a wide range of charities and which pressed upon us the limited legislation which we are now presenting to the Committee. With the assurance that we shall have another look at it before the Committee stage, I hope that we may give the Bill a Second Reading.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered, That the Chairman do now report to the House that the Committee recommend that the Rating (Charity Shops) Bill [Lords] ought to be read a Second time.

Committee rose at nineteen minutes past Eleven o'clock.