The Conservative MP Nigel Evans has reacted to the death of the 92-year-old poppy seller Olive Cooke by calling for a ban on charities sharing information about their donors and for restrictions on the number of letters they can send out.
Evans, MP for the Ribble Valley constituency in Lancashire since 1992, has written to Alistair McLean, chief executive of the Fundraising Standards Board, to express his concern that Cooke – who was reported in some national newspapers to have been overwhelmed by fundraising requests before she died – was one of many who had had a negative experience of charity fundraising methods.
"I am sure that you agree with me that while charities should be able to be free to raise the funds they require, that should not come at the expense of the welfare of vulnerable people," wrote Evans.
"There will be elderly and vulnerable people across the country who are in a similar situation to Ms Cooke, receiving hundreds of phone calls, letters and emails begging them for money, and many of them will feel trapped or forced into agreeing."
Evans said yesterday to his local newspaper, the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times: "Every single charity that bombarded Ms Cooke should see the impact that their hounding can have on vulnerable people.
"I am today calling for it to be made illegal for charities to share or sell information about their donors to other charities or organisations and for there to be restrictions on the number of letters charities can send out to potential donors.
"This should never be allowed to happen again and this case should serve as a wake-up call to charities."
A spokesman for Evans’ parliamentary office said that the MP had no personal connection to Cooke or to the area where she lived, but that he had received some feedback about the case from constituents. He has previously spoken out about the need to protect people from nuisance calls.
The FRSB launched an investigation last week into allegations that Cooke was inundated with requests to give to charities.
McLean and Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, and Peter Hills-Jones, chief executive of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, received letters last week from the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, requesting a meeting to discuss the action they are taking to reassure the public following Cooke’s death.
A spokesman for the PFRA told Third Sector that the meeting would take place next Tuesday.
He said that the PFRA – which regulates door-to-door and street fundraisers – would support the FRSB’s investigation if it was asked to do so. He said the PFRA was also working closely with the IoF, which has said it would review what had been learnt from Cooke’s death once the FRSB review has concluded.
"While there is no evidence to suggest Mrs Cooke had any contact with face-to-face fundraisers, we will act on any recommendations made by our partners at the IoF or FRSB," said the PFRA spokesman.
Cooke’s family has said that charities were not to blame for her death. An inquest was opened last week and adjourned until July.