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I wish to speak to the amendment that seeks to extend the definition of who can accompany a donor under gift aid in subsection (5I)(a). Last week on Second Reading I mentioned a number of small museums in my constituency, and also the Wandle industrial museum, which held an exhibition on Saturday. The chairman of its board of trustees is the Reverend Andrew Wakefield. It was somewhat surprising, therefore, to find that the board was sponsoring an exhibition on Nelson, especially as it featured the ménage à trois in which he lived in Merton. [Interruption.] For the benefit of the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), may I say that Nelson lived with Emma, Lady Hamilton, who was married to someone else at the time? It was odd to find a reverend member of the Church sponsoring such an exhibition.
The industrial museum is exactly the sort of small museum covered by the Bill. I asked Mr. Wakefield whether he had had a chance to read the report of last week's Second Reading or had heard anything about the clauses that were being suggested. It seemed that, like those mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois), he had heard nothing, and nor had he had a chance to consider how the provisions might affect the museum.
However, a parent's taking a group of children to a small exhibition or museum is currently disallowable under the gift aid clause. Given the many different circumstances that can arise, it is sensible to widen the terms of that clause, which is what the amendment seeks to do. The ability to make a donation should surely extend to everyone in the donor's party, and the amendment would remove the anomaly so that the whole party would be covered by the gift aid provision. Inserting "accompanying" would also ensure a link between the principal person and the group itself, instead of a spurious association. I accept that figure of
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20 to which the amendment refers is an arbitrary one; none the less, that figure would cover most of the circumstances to which I referred earlier, such as a children's party or a local group or society trying to enter a museum. I hope that the Minister will consider accepting the amendment, which would simply clarify matters and allow a number of perfectly innocent people who wish to be admitted to be covered by the gift aid provisions.
I want to say a little about the amendments moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh, which I hope the whole House will welcome and commend. When I spoke to various people after last week's Second Reading, it became clear that the one-year rule will create real problems for those who have established friends' groups for small industrial museums. Such groups often have a right of admission of a year. Unless the provision is amended, it would be rather odd if someone actually wanted to become a friend of a museum, instead of just paying their donation on the way in. Changing the period from one year to three months seems an acceptable idea that would provide valid support for museums.
On Second Reading, I referred to interactive displays. I have a child who regards viewing museum displays as a rather restrictive pastime and who is keen to take advantage of the various interactive hands-on displays. There is no real purpose to confining the current provision to viewing alone. Amendment No. 36 also refers to the "educational purpose", and I hope that anyone who enters a museum would regard doing so as educational. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman clarify what an interactive display or exhibition is? I have my own viewsI have seen such displays in museumsbut I wonder what his are.
Stephen Hammond: I can give two practical examples. The museum that I visited on Saturday contains a working scale model of a mill. Children can look at it, move it around and remove and replace its various parts. Another display included various panels that people can touch, with lights indicating different results. Instead of simply viewing the display, they can press buttons and involve themselves in interactive way. As I understand it, the amendment will allow such circumstances to be covered.
Rob Marris: That deals with "interactive", but will the hon. Gentleman say a little more about the second word in the amendment, which is "experiments"? The mill to which he referred may count as an experiment, but his second example, involving flashing lights, did not sound like an experiment.
Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD):
I shall speak primarily to amendment No. 35, but I shall also say a
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few words about amendments Nos. 36 and 1. I declare my various interests, which I discovered, once I started writing them down, are more extensive than I had realised. They include English Heritage, the National Trust, the Tate museum and, in my own constituency, Barnes wetlands and Kew gardens, some of which might be beneficiaries of the revised gift aid programme.
I thank the Minister for recognising that many charitable attractions use the provisions on gift aid and admissions not as a loophole, but, with the encouragement of the official guidance of the Inland Revenue, as a justified way to enhance their viability. For many small museums, including the Richmond and Kingston museums, gift aid has played a significant role, especially when local government is frequently cutting funding. With intensified competition from national museumsnow free of chargethe difficulties of the smaller museums have worsened, and gift aid provision has proved a lifeline. That is why the proposed changes are of such concern.
I accept the fundamental notion that for gift aid to apply, it is right to ask for a little something extra to be provided, rather than simply having admissions converted into a donation. I accept that in principle, but I am concerned about the provisions that are intended to give effect to it. I have received from Ken Robinson, and from people on the ground, representations saying that the difficulty of explaining the need to put an extra 10 per cent. into the pot so that payment qualifies as a donation is a challenge for many small museums, particularly where the admissions person is a volunteersomeone passionate about the collection, but not necessarily able to sit down and take someone through the complex details of adopting route A or B and explaining the differences between them. That is particularly significant when there is a fairly long queue. From a practical point of view, it provides a challenge particularly for small museums, but also perhaps for the larger ones.
Rob Marris: Is it not already the case that small museums have to explain gift aid provisions? The people paying the entrance fee are taxpayers and have to fill in forms in any case; surely a different form could be given to them to fill in while they were in the long queues that the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) mentioned. The punters would soon come to understand the situation.
Susan Kramer: The hon. Gentleman will know that many taxpayers frequently make donations and often understand the need to fill in forms. In other words, it is a practice with which they are familiar and accept as part of their general routine. It is not associated only with admissions but with all sorts of other things that people happen to do relating to charities. Suddenly finding that a separate set of rules applies as people go through the admissions door at the local museum is a significant additional step. This is simply a matter of practicalities. When five or six people are standing in a row to gain admission to a small museum and another crowd arrives behind them, that can be overwhelming.
If the Minister believes that the clause is efficient and will work effectively, will he agree to monitor it? If we started to see that the provisions were having an impact
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on small museums that were unable to realise the funding and benefits that both they and the Minister anticipate, could some intervention be made to deal with that problem? I am willing to accept the provision as a starting point, but I ask for it to be watched because the practicalities may prove more difficult than is currently envisaged.
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